Articles Posted in Medical Errors

A new report found that New York doctors who received payments from opioid manufacturers were more likely to prescribe opioids to their patients. More disturbingly, the report, released by the New York State Health Foundation, found that as payments from the drug manufacturers to the doctors increased the prescription rate for their addictive painkillers increased almost lock-step. Overall, opioid manufacturers paid more than $3.5 million to New York state doctors between 2013 and 2015, as the opioid problem in the country began to reach epidemic levels.

According to the New York State Health Foundation, a nonprofit foundation established less than a decade ago, roughly one in 10 physicians received payouts from opioid manufacturers. The President and CEO, David Sandman bluntly said, “The more money you get, the more opioids you prescribe.” The data released by the agency confirms his statement. Doctors who received less than $20 from opioid manufacturers – approximately the cost of lunch or dinner – billed Medicare for an average of $34,000 just for opiates, which include hydrocodone, oxycontin, and fentanyl.

If the doctor received between $20 to $50 from the drug companies, the average billing went up to $50,000. For the 3,000 New York physicians who received more than $1,000 from these companies, Medicare was billed an astounding $1.24 million just in opioid prescriptions. The doctors who received payments from opioid manufacturers increased their prescriptions for these dangerous and addictive drugs by almost 37.2 percent in just two years. Doctors who did not receive any payment from the drug companies increased their prescriptions by just 15.6 percent.

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A Georgia doctor who wanted to be known as the “dancing doctor” will no longer be a doctor in the State of Georgia. In a fantastic story by the New York Times, the dermatologist, whose name is Dr. Windell Davis-Boutte, would stop in the middle of her surgeries and perform a dance routine to popular hip-hop and rap songs. Then, the doctor would post them to her social media account, which was deleted after more than 100 patients came forward and several lawsuits were filed against the now-disgraced doctor.

Davis-Boutte advertised herself on her website as having “MASTERFUL SURGICAL EXPERTISE, having sought additional extensive training by some of the most famous surgeons in the world.” The patients who were harmed during her surgeries provide a different story. One patient, who was included in a video of the former dermatologist dancing to the song “Cut It” received a botched liposuction, breast augmentation, and Brazilian butt lift operation all on the same day. In the video, one of the 20 provided to the New York Times, the former doctor prods the midsection of the patient and then finger rolls her skin to the beat of the song. According to the newspaper, once the hook begins she starts “slicing the air with her scalpel… then making incisions, her scalpel moving rhythmically to the song.” The day after the surgery, the patient had a “collapsed lung and suffered from anemia because of her acute blood loss.”

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A new report by Christiana Care Health System showed that medication errors occurred in 47 percent of ICU Transfers. The study which followed 985 patients at almost 60 different ICUs across the East Coast who were transferred from the ICU to a non-ICU area in the same hospital or medical unit.  According to the study, an average of 1.88 errors occurred per patient transferred out of the ICU, a startlingly high number.

The report, authored by Andrea Tully and detailed in MDMag.com, found that the most common errors related to anti-infectives, hematologic agents, and intravenous fluids, electrolytes or diuretics. The patients with the highest risk of a medication error were patients taking the most medications and patients in need of renal replacement therapy. While 75 percent of these medication errors were deemed “Category C” which meant no actual harm or minimal harm caused to the patient, a full 25 percent caused harm to the patient. According to patient care advocates, these numbers are unacceptable.

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In an attempt to advance the medical field, a world-renowned heart surgeon stands accused of violating ethical rules and harming patients, according to a groundbreaking report by ProPublica. The heart doctor, O.H. “Bud” Frazier, is credited with saving thousands of lives in his obsessive, career-long drive to create an artificial heart. However, to reach his admittedly noble goal he skirted ethical guidelines, defrauded Medicare, and harmed patients in an attempt to advance his research. Perhaps most disturbingly, his clinic, Texas Heart in Houston, along with several other doctors on the staff, apparently knew of Dr. Frazier’s ethical lapses and proceeded to either do nothing or actively hide the illegal and immoral behavior, according to the newspaper’s expose.

According to ProPublica, Dr. Frazier, who quit performing surgeries last year when he turned 75, is accused of the following:

  • Inappropriately diagnosing patients with advanced stage heart failure, in an attempt to install experimental heart pumps in the patients. According to hospital records viewed by the newspaper, an internal investigation made the Board of Directors at St. Luke’s Hospital, the hospital in charge of Texas Heart, aware of the problem who wrote at the time that if “…the affiliation should be dissolved, the impact to St. Luke’s market position is unclear. It’s likely that such news would generate national attention and negatively impact our standing in the US News and World Report rankings.” The executives chose to do nothing at the time.

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New York hospitals rank among the lowest in the nation for patient safety, according to a non-profit group. The Empire State ranked 48th out of the 50 states, a one-spot improvement from last year. Overall, almost 6 percent of hospitals received an “F” for patient safety – a notable increase from the nationwide average of under 1 percent. A total of 137 hospitals in New York were graded, according to NBC New York.

The rankings, which are released every year, are released by Leapfrog Group and rank 2,500 hospitals across the country. The grades – ranging from an “A” to an “F” – are based on the rate of hospital errors (including medication errors), accidents, infections, and the number of preventable pressure ulcers, among several other factors. Leapfrog Group ranks hospitals individually and then aggregates the data and ranks each state collectively.

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Doctors and legal financing companies are pushing women into receiving unnecessary surgeries in a brazen attempt to win legal settlements, according to the New York Times. The article focuses on women who have received vaginal mesh implants – a medical procedure fraught with problems for some women. In the illuminating piece, women with these implants are contacted by legal financing companies, which offer high-interest rate loans to finance removal of the implant. In the end, the women typically receive an unnecessary, and sometimes unsafe, medical procedure that they are then forced to pay for over time, with a high-interest rate attached.

The article describes the process as follows: Women with vaginal mesh implants are contacted by a legal financing company. The women, who may or may not have any side effects from the device, are warned of impending doom – in one instance described by The Times, a company representative told the woman that her life was in danger. These women, understandably alarmed, are then told that doctors can remove the implant and the women can even receive part of any legal settlement from the supposedly malfunctioning device.

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A recent study highlighted the improving areas of medical care in the United States. Released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the study tracked seven main criteria related to healthcare between 2000 and 2014 – person-centered care, patient safety, healthy living, effective treatment, care coordination, and affordable care.

Here is the breakdown on how America’s healthcare system changed according to each of the metrics:

  1. Person-Centered Care. The study defined “person-centered care” as whether or not a patient achieves their healthcare outcomes, not merely whether a disease has been effectively treated or managed. Overall, the trend for this metric has markedly improved since 2000. A full 83 percent of patients who had visited a doctor in the last 12 months reported improvement in person-centered care. Perhaps as important, none of the patients indicated their care “worsened” on this metric during the fourteen-year period.
  1. Patient Safety. Keeping a patient safe while in a hospital or doctor’s office also saw an improvement during the study. Overall 66 percent of patients reported an improvement in this metric, which reflects broader trends of data available in this area. Between 2008 to 2014, the number of infections related to a central venous catheter dropped from 1.9 per 1,000 patients to 0.67 per 1,0000. Similar improvements in patients receiving hip joint replacement surgeries. In 2009 a full 16.4 percent of Americans undergoing this notoriously tricky procedure reported “adverse effects”, a number that dropped to 9.8 percent by 2014.

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Cindy Frey, the widow of late Eagle’s co-founder Glenn Frey, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mt. Sinai hospital and physician Steven Itzkowitz. The lawsuit alleges the hospital and doctor were negligent in failing to properly diagnose and treat the health conditions that led to his untimely death in January 2016. Frey died at the age of 67 from complications resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia, according to The Rolling Stone.

glen-frey-wrongful-death-300x158According to the lawsuit, Glenn Frey was under the care of the Upper East Side hospital and Dr. Itzkowitz between October 2015 and November 2015. The lawsuit alleges that a competent doctor, acting in similar circumstances, would have diagnosed and promptly treated the Eagles co-founder’s “ulcerative colitis and associated symptoms.” Ulcerative colitis is a form of irritable bowel disease. Further, the lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court, the lowest court in the Empire State, a competent doctor would have assessed Frey’s respiratory problems – the ultimate cause of his death. Dr. Itzkowitz, according to the lawsuit, did not properly check for the problems, diagnose the infection, or hospitalize him. Continue reading

med-errorThe third leading cause of death in America is death by hospital error, according to Johns Hopkins’ Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. Following heart disease and cancer, hospital errors account for around 440,000 deaths each year. That means that there are more than 1,000 preventable deaths in hospitals across America every day.  Given these findings, its perhaps unsurprising that for Americans over the age of 65 – there is a 14 percent chance hospital visit will make them sicker.

Lacking mandatory reporting requirements, these kinds of errors are not typically tracked by hospitals and consequently, have escaped scrutiny by public health advocates and government officials. Speaking to The Post Star, Matt Austin, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute, puts it more bluntly, “It tends to happen to a patient here, a patient there.” Continue reading

heathcare-technology-300x169The billions of dollars of investments in healthcare technology over the last decade have produced undeniable benefits. With the push towards electronic health records, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that prescribing errors will be reduced by 95 percent. In addition to making healthcare safer for many Americans, healthcare technology has also made the process more efficient – “doctor-on-demand” services proliferate across the internet, promising the availability virtual doctor within minutes and from anywhere in the world.  According to Slate Magazine,

However, while the delivery of healthcare by hospitals, doctors, and nursing homes may have improved over the last decade, healthcare technology has not reached its full potential. A growing chorus of medical professionals is pointing to several large blind spots in managing the healthcare of Americans. According to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation, just 10 percent of our health is determined by the care received in a clinical setting – such as a doctor’s office, hospital, or nursing home. The report found that individual circumstances and social factors are the largest determinants, accounting for 60 percent of a person’s health. Genetics account for another 30 percent. This explains why in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, residents of the affluent suburbs live an average of 20 years longer than their lower-income counterparts, who live just blocks away from the same grocery stores and world-class hospitals. Continue reading

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