Sunday, January 04, 2004

American hospitals and doctors delivering unsafe health care

Jan. 5,2004 - Donald Berwick says our nation's world-class hospitals and doctors are delivering health care that is unsafe and unreliable. But his call to dismantle the system makes the medical establishment uneasy -- because he used to be part of it, according to a Boston Globe article on health care.

A respected voice in health care analysis, Berwicks vision is remarkable and he says attainable:
When you wanted to see your doctor, you would call in the morning and get an appointment that afternoon. And it would start on time, not an hour and three outdated People magazines later.
You would maintain control of your medical record, rather than needing a subpoena just to get a peek at it.
Hospitals would have genuine one-stop registration, and every employee would be trained to have the customer-service touch of a Ritz-Carlton concierge. No one would ask you to wear one of those open-backed johnnies.
Waiting would be kept to a minimum, because the hospital will have embraced flow management, anticipating rather than just reacting. There would be no visiting hours in the intensive care unit, since any family member could visit at any time.
Medication errors -- overdoses, allergic reactions, and other adverse responses -- would be all but eliminated by the universal adoption of computerized drug-ordering systems. Hospitals would impose a zero-tolerance policy for workers failing to wash their hands, a move that could save upward of 10,000 lives a year.
Communication and patient-advocacy systems would put an end to horror stories like the one involving the 5-year-old boy who died at Children's Hospital last year because each of his many doctors assumed another doctor was in charge.

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