Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Medical Mistakes

Yesterday I was seeing patients at a medical clinic that treats people with lymphedema (swelling due to fluid accumulation usually in the legs).  I was performing lower extremity venous ultrasound to make sure patients are clot free before being treated with special pressure cuffs designed to reduce fluid in the extremities.  The reasoning being that an occult clot could be dis-lodged and potentially cause a pulmonary embolism which could be fatal.  As I was examining an elderly gentleman, I came across a clot in his left popliteal vein.  This is remarkable because the patient stated as I was beginning the examination that he had  the same ultrasound test run a few days ago at a prestigious hospital here in Houston, and that he was puzzled that I was doing the same test on him again.  I explained that it was standard procedure at this clinic to screen all new patients for DVT prior to treatment.  I made my preliminary report to the physician and left the facility.  When I got back to my office my boss told me the physician would like a courtesy call from the interpreting radiologist to confirm my preliminary findings.  The physician in charge of the lymphedema clinic had explained that he wanted to be sure of the finding before confronting the patient with the news that the prestigious hospital had "missed" the blood clot.

I was cruising the internet this morning when I came upon an article from the Wall Street Journal that addressed this very issue.  With health care on the precipice of vast change, it caused me to worry that we health care professionals are going to be very busy in the coming years with the retirement of the baby-boomers.  Not like we are not already busy enough.  It is most important that we stop a moment and examine the reason we are health care providers.  The following is a snip-it from the article by Dr. Marty Makary:

When there is a plane crash in the U.S., even a minor one, it makes headlines. There is a thorough federal investigation, and the tragedy often yields important lessons for the aviation industry. Pilots and airlines thus learn how to do their jobs more safely.
The world of American medicine is far deadlier: Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. But these mistakes go largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the medical community rarely learns from them. The same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and patients are left in the dark about which hospitals have significantly better (or worse) safety records than their peers.

Here is the link:

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