Articles Posted in Medical Errors

In response to an increase in superbugs, medical centers are taking an aggressive stance by implementing strict hygiene standards and educating patients about antibiotic resistance. Superbugs are bacterial infections resistant to medical treatment, such as antibiotics. A global increase in the number of antibiotic prescriptions coupled with a lack of new antibiotics produced in the last few decades created strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, superbugs (and antibiotic resistance, more generally) present one of the world’s “most pressing public health problems.”

Filled with infectious diseases and compromised immune systems, hospitals are a breeding ground for superbugs and their patients are uniquely susceptible. Thankfully, hospitals are stepping up and setting new standards to prevent the spread of infection. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, several hospitals detail new procedures meant to improve hygiene and stop germs from spreading. In addition to routine hand washing, medical staff at these hospitals also clean stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, IV poles and pumps, bed railings, and computer keyboards. Stethoscopes, in a surprise to hospital staff interviewed by the WSJ, usually carry the same number of germs as a doctor’s hands after just a single physical examination.

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New York became the first state in the country requiring all nurses to complete a four-year degree program, according to Nurse.com. The new law, which the American Nurses Association has lobbied for since 1964, marks the standardization of nursing education across the state. Under the new law, which took effect in January 2018, all nurses will have up to ten years from receiving their nursing license to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. If a nurse fails to attain the four-year degree within the allotted decade then they will be stripped of their nursing license unless “extraordinary circumstances” can be shown.

The new law will not apply to currently licensed registered nurses in the state, students enrolled in a nursing program in New York State, or any individuals who have already been accepted to nursing school in New York State. In common parlance, these groups will be “grandfathered” in to the policy. For anyone that starts their nursing career or applies to a nursing school starting in 2018, the new law will apply. Under the previous law, nurses can become licensed in New York after completing either a two-year associates degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree and then passing a state licensing exam.

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After a lack of response from management, a group of nurses is going public about the poor treatment of patients at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Speaking to The Daily News, the nurses describe “horror stories” of overcrowding, understaffed medical personnel, unsanitary conditions, and a management structure who seems oblivious or unconcerned about these serious problems. The deteriorating quality of care at the Bronx hospital endangers both patients, who are more likely to become sick with infectious diseases, and nurses, who are frequently attacked by mentally ill residents at the hospital.

In response to the allegations of overcrowding, understaffing, and inadequate medical care, a Montefiore spokeswoman pointed towards the Bronx hospital’s high ranking on Indeed.com – a website where employees review their employer. While Indeed may believe Montefiore is a pleasant work environment, their nurses disagree and, according to The Daily News, they have ample evidence. In one example, emergency room patients wait an average of 64 minutes before meeting with a healthcare professional – almost double the national average.

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After the rapid pace of consolidation in the healthcare industry over the past decade, many patient advocates are beginning to study the effects of these mergers and acquisitions on the quality of patient care. While many of the business executives in charge of these restructurings tout improved patient health as a benefit, it appears the opposite may be true – at least in the short-term – for many patients. The study, which was reported by STAT, found that new patient populations, unfamiliar infrastructure, and new settings for physicians caused the bulk of problems related to possible declines in patient health after a hospital merger.

Since 2014, there have been more than 100 hospital or healthcare mergers each year. Last year alone, there were 115 mergers and this trend is likely to continue. For that reason, it is important to learn about its effects on patient care. After thoroughly reviewing several randomly chosen mergers and acquisitions, STAT found a disturbing pattern of patient neglect. In two examples, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist ended up in the wrong part of the hospital after being summoned for a time-sensitive procedure. In another example, an ER doctor was given only thirty minutes of training before being put to work in an Emergency Room. According to STAT, “[The Doctor] had not been brief on how to obtain backup help in the case of an unexpected emergency.” Therefore, when multiple ambulances arrived with several critical patients, the hospital was overwhelmed and ineffective in treating the majority of patients. In all of these circumstances, the hospital had reorganized itself and not properly trained the medical staff at the hospital.

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Patient neglect causes serious issues in hospitals throughout the country, including pressure ulcers, falls and medication errors. However, a new company is attempting to gather data about patients using artificial intelligence which will, hopefully, led to fewer patients neglected in hospital rooms. The new sensor from start-up Inspiren is currently on trial at a hospital in Queens.

The sensor, which is roughly the size of a thermostat and possesses a glowing ring, will attempt to accurately report when a patient is “checked on” by a nurse or hospital staff member. While common procedure across the country, “hourly” check-ins by nurses are not uniformly followed when the hospital or staff are busy. The sensor, which is named “iN” will sit on a wall and monitor when a staff member enters and leaves a room. If the “iN” glows green, then the patient has been checked on recently. Unsurprisingly, yellow and red serve as warning signs that a patient may need assistance. Unsurprisingly, iN will come with an app notifying nurses whenever a patient has not been checked on in an hour.

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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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