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Mystery of Medical Mistakes Still Unsolved

If you want to know why I have so little faith in conventional medicine -- a mega-billion dollar monstrosity that throws money and "designer" drugs at disease conditions rather than trying to treat them -- the followup of a 1999 study of hospitals by the Institute of Medicine ought to speak volumes.

That 1999 study claimed up to nearly 100,000 Americans died annually due to preventable mistakes. A recent followup found that 45 percent of physicians said their facilities had a better culture of safety today than in 1999. Conversely, the remainder felt safety has stayed the same or gotten worse.

Private organizations like the Joint Committee for Accreditation of Hospital Organizations were praised for tightening safety practices in the hospitals it monitors, although this organization has been criticized for keeping most of its data secret. Public reporting of safety data is desperately needed to drive doctors and hospitals to improve.

Even worse, states and private health systems now require health workers to report medical errors or "near misses," in which a patient is put at potential risk. But researchers still have largely not figured out what to do with those reports once they have them.

These recent results go hand-in-hand with our popular series Modern Health Care System is the Leading Cause of Death we ran last summer.

Reuters UK November 4, 2004

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