Revealing America’s Deadliest Hospitals

REVEALING AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOSPITALS…. Twelve years ago, the Institute of Medicine issued a landmark report showing that medical errors in U.S hospitals kill up to 98,000 Americans a year. People responded to the alarm. Task forces were convened. Congressional investigations launched. Op-eds written. Yet as hard as it may be to believe, American medicine is, if anything, even more dangerous today.

In this groundbreaking Washington Monthly article, investigative journalist Marshall Allen documents how contact with the U.S. health care system has become a leading cause of death in the United States and proposes solutions. Plenty of U.S. hospitals have dramatically improved their safety performance. The best have virtually eliminated the deadliest hospital-acquired infections. If every health care provider adhered to the highest standards of patient safety and evidence-based medicine, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved, to say nothing of the billions spent on treating complications. Yet good luck discovering for yourself which hospitals are safe and effective, and which aren’t.

As Allen demonstrates, the way to make America’s hospitals less dangerous is for the health care system to adopt the kind of transparent, data-driven safety culture found in industries such as aviation. In the airline industry, if a pilot so much as accidentally makes a wrong turn moving away from the gate, anywhere in the world, the event is instantly recorded in global databases and scrutinized by government agencies, the public, and the industry itself. The knowledge gained from this continuous process leads to big and little changes in aviation protocol, equipment, and personnel. As a result, there was not a single airline fatality anywhere in the developed world last year. The same can be accomplished in healthcare, Allen shows, though the implementation of open-source health IT, open disclosure of specific errors, and a commitment to learning from them so as to eliminate nearly all unnecessary death and injury caused by healthcare itself.

Read Allen’s “First Do No Harm.”