A new study of Texas hospitals found that hospitals are actually getting paid money to perform faulty surgeries. In cases where preventable mistakes occur during surgery, hospitals are getting paid more money by insurance providers, resulting in an over $30,000 additional price tag. In these cases, a preventable mistake, such as a patient contracting pneumonia, or their incision becoming infected, the patient often must stay in the hospital for additional time. What once was a three and a half day hospital stay turns into a fourteen day stay, with a much more substantial price tag that comes at the expense of the patient’s insurance. While insurance companies do provide quite a bit of revenue for preventable mistakes, they do have a ‘never’ list of things that they will not pay for. This list includes leaving a sponge/instrument in a patient, or operating on the wrong body part. See articles at Politico, Kaiser, and NY Times.
The researchers say that they don’t believe hospitals are intentionally allowing preventable mistakes to occur to gain income, but they do believe that there is no incentive for hospitals to improve their quality of care. If a patient catching pneumonia results in a $30,000 bonus to the hospital, why would the hospital want to reduce the chance of patients catching pneumonia?
To combat these preventable mistakes, some hospitals and doctors are now using checklists. These checklists sound obvious, including tasks like double checking the patient’s identification, body part being operated on, and if they’re allergic to any medications. By using these checklists, doctors and nurses ensure that they know who their patient is, what they need operated on, and what medication they should or shouldn’t have.
Since 2004, the Joint Commission, which accredits American hospitals, has required doctors and nurses to use a short checklist to increase surgical safety and to decrease preventable mistakes. If this checklist didn’t work, how is another supposed to help?
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