Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why Does Wrong Site Surgery Continue To Happen?

In "Groundhog Day" fashion, it seems as though we can't go but a few weeks and, bam, there's yet another medical malpractice lawsuit claiming that a hospital/ surgeon operated on the wrong patient or wrong body part. This time, "St. Louis University doctors mixed up their patients and did the wrong surgery on one man's spine," according to a recent lawsuit filed against the hospital.

Wrong site surgeries are on the rise, according to the National Institutes Of Health. In fact, wrong site surgery has been gained enough notoriety to be given an acronym--WSS (it's a good rule of thumb that if something has its own acronym, it's a big deal).

The vexing problem of wrong site surgeries confirms one of the ugly downsides of health care delivery: it is a volume business within a complex system.. Consequently, patients will fall through the cracks despite the best protocols, policies, and safety procedures. The best hospital safety policy is useless if the surgeon or the hospital is in a hurry to move patients, in cattle like fashion, for whatever reason.

I hear politicians squawk all the time that we have the best health care system in the world. In many respects, we do. So why do these 100% preventable medical errors continue to happen? For all the hue and cry about doctors practicing "defensive medicine," what do hundreds or thousands of wrong site surgeries each year do to health care costs? Is continued malpractice a driver in the high cost of health care? The powers that study health care policy and "reforms" continue to ignore the proverbial 800 pound gorilla standing in hospital hallways and operating rooms across the U.S: that by actually reducing incidents of malpractice, malpractice costs, and therefore health care costs, can be reduced.

Reducing malpractice lawsuits by reducing there's a novel idea...

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