As if we haven’t heard enough this week about the epidemic of medical errors in this country, here’s another story we could hardly believe.
In football parlance, a “fumble” is a pretty bad “boo boo” because it can lead to the other side gaining possession of the ball, and change the entire complexion of the game. In the context of health care, when insufficient information about important medical tests doesn’t make it into a patient’s discharge records (i.e., the test information is “fumbled”), the stakes are obviously much higher because serious medical errors can result.
With that in mind, researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine set out to determine just how many such “fumbles” take place—and the results were pretty disturbing. Check it out:
In its study of 668 hospital discharges with pending test results, only 16% of 2,927 tests were mentioned in the discharge summary.So remember civil justice fans, the next time we’re exposed to some hooey about the need to limit lawsuits against doctors who are negligent, incompetent, or otherwise “drop the ball,” let’s remind ourselves that the way to stop injuries, claims and lawsuits—and lower the cost of health care—is to bring a halt to such “fumbles.” Penalizing injured patients for doctors’ mistakes will do nothing to advance the health care ball.
In addition, the discharge summaries often did not include directions about which doctors should receive post-discharge test results, with only 67% of summaries indicating the primary-care physician that was responsible for follow-up care, according to the study.
Test results that would lead to a change in the patient’s treatment plan were not mentioned in the discharge summaries as well, according to Martin Were, a physician who co-authored the study.