Physicians perform a variety of functions whenever patients seek care from them. They may perform surgeries, prescribe medications, order tests, take patient histories and analyze data in order to confirm diagnostic suspicions. In addition, physicians are called upon to give patients information about their conditions, advise them of their options and help to support future treatment through directing patients to various resources designed to facilitate health and wellness.
As children, we are taught to wash our hands. We are taught to wash our hands before and after eating, after using the restroom, after playing outside and generally after having touched too many surfaces in any public place. We are taught to wash our hands not only because it helps to prevent illness within our own bodies, but also in the bodies of others.
When preventable medical errors occur as a result of healthcare provider negligence, it is critical that the negligent parties are held accountable for them. Accountability as a goal does not seek to brand providers for life. Providers are human and they will certainly make mistakes. However, holding them accountable for harmful medical malpractice is necessary both for the immediately affected patient's benefit and for the benefit of all the patients that will be treated by those providers down the road.
Each time patients seek treatment at a hospital, doctor's office or other medical facility, they are required to sign documents related to restrictions and rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This act generally gives patients various rights to privacy over their medical information. When physicians breach this act, their behavior may leave them vulnerable to claims of medical malpractice.
The federal government is currently mandating that various kinds of healthcare facilities digitize their patients' medical records. The logic behind this shift is informed by the idea that fewer medical mistakes and less medical malpractice will occur generally when medical records are streamlined, easily accessible and easily readable in an electronic format. Unfortunately, the government is not going far enough in holding negligent facilities accountable for harming patients via glitches or mistakes in their electronic medical record databases.
When patients are discharged from hospitalization, they may generally assume that all test results ordered on their behalf have been properly reviewed. However, this may not be an accurate or even a safe assumption. Readers may be surprised to learn that up to half of all medical tests ordered the day of patient discharge are not reviewed by doctors, according to a recently published Australian study.
When people become ill or injured, they place their trust in the hands of doctors. In exchange for this trust, patients expect doctors to tell them the truth about the extent of illnesses and realities of prognoses. Yet, a survey recently published in Health Affairs indicates that doctors are not always completely truthful when communicating with patients.
The word "hospitalization" can strike fear into even the most hardened of souls. The mere utterance of the term conjures images of paper gowns, endless stacks of insurance paperwork and the sickly smell of disinfectant. But the unspoken fear on the backs of many patients' minds is often much worse - what if something goes wrong?
If you're over 65, taking a vacation and worried about the rising costs of Medicare, it may be better to visit the balmy beaches of Honolulu than the steamy white sands of Miami. It will cost the federal government $5,186 more fund a Medicare procedure in Miami than it will cost to perform the identical procedure in Honolulu. This discrepancy, along with the expected rise in the cost of Medicare in general, is why the federal government plans to institute a "value-based purchasing" plan for one of the nation's largest public healthcare systems. Questions surrounding this plan center on cost v. quality of care and the potential for increased physician negligence.