Identified preventable problems included severe bleeding during an operation, breathing trouble caused by an improperly performed procedure, a fall that caused nerve damage and a dislocated hip, and vaginal cuts caused by a vacuum device during a birthing procedure.
The New York Times reports:
"... [I]nstead of improvements, the researchers found a high rate of problems. About 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care, some more than once, and 63.1 percent of the injuries were judged to be preventable."
One of the reasons why I am so passionate about sharing preventive health strategies with you -- tips like eating right, exercising and reducing stress -- is because they can help you to stay out of the hospital.
And as much as possible, the hospital is a place you clearly want to avoid at all costs, except in cases of accidental trauma or surgical emergencies (such as appendicitis).
Over the last 10 years, hospitals have been well aware of their dismal patient safety ratings and unacceptable rates of injury and errors. But efforts meant to improve patient safety have fallen way short.
It's Common to be Harmed by Medical Care in Hospitals
The latest study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that from 2002 to 2007, harm to patients at 10 North Carolina hospitals (hospitals that were involved in programs to improve patient safety) was common and did not decrease.
Instead, 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care (some repeatedly) and over 63 percent of the injuries could have been prevented. In nearly 2.5 percent of these cases, the problems caused or contributed to a person's death. In another 3 percent, patients suffered from permanent injury, while over 8 percent experienced life-threatening issues, such as severe bleeding during surgery.
Most often, patients suffered complications from medical procedures or drugs, or came down with a hospital-acquired infection. Other problems also occurred because hospitals failed to prevent infections and mistakes caused by urinary catheters, ventilators and lines inserted into veins and arteries.
In all, there were over 25 injuries per 100 admissions … a frighteningly high statistic for a health care system that demands more than twice the amount of spending as health care in other developed nations.
Research on Hospitals Paints a Grim Picture
The New England Journal of Medicine study only adds to the growing roster of evidence highlighting the sad state of safety in many U.S. hospitals.
The HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, released in March 2010, found that "patient safety incidents," which is a nice way of saying "preventable medical mistakes," are common in U.S. hospitals. In all, over the years 2006-2008, there were nearly 1 million incidents among Medicare patients, and one in 10 of them were deadly.
The HealthGrades report pointed out that "the incidence rate of medical harm occurring is estimated to be over 40,000 each and EVERY day according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement."
You read that right: 40,000 medical mistakes a day!
Further, in the United States, more than 2 million people are affected by hospital-acquired infections every year, and 100,000 people die as a result. In one of the largest nationally representative studies to date, released earlier this year, it was found that 48,000 people died due to sepsis or pneumonia caused by hospital-acquired infections alone!
The saddest part is, virtually every one of these infections could likely have been prevented with better infection control in hospitals.
Recent studies have shown that hospital-acquired infections are not a normal side-effect of caring for the seriously ill, but are generally caused by poor medical care. This includes not only contaminated medical devices but also spreading germs from patient-to-patient.
Doctors and nurses not washing their hands prior to touching a patient is the most common violation in hospitals. According to findings by the Seattle Times, in the worst cases, as few as 40 percent of staff members comply with hand-washing standards, with doctors being the worst offenders.
But even the best hospitals had no better than 90 percent compliance -- which means one out of 10 practitioners may have contaminated hands even under the best circumstances.
U.S. Ranks Last for Unnecessary Deaths and 49th for Life Expectancy
The U.S. now ranks LAST out of 19 countries for unnecessary deaths -- deaths that could have been avoided through timely and effective medical care. Additionally, one-third of adults with health problems reported mistakes in their care in 2007, and rates of visits to physicians or emergency departments for adverse drug effects increased by one-third between 2001 and 2004.
The United States also now ranks 49th for male and female life expectancy worldwide, a ranking that has fallen sharply from fifth place in 1950.
Among the most likely suspects for Americans' declining health were not obesity, traffic accidents, murder or other "big killers" you might suspect. Rather, researchers pointed to unnecessary medical procedures and an uncoordinated system with fragmented care, where patients rely on numerous providers to treat various bits and pieces of a problem, rather than seeking out one provider who will treat them as a whole.
The problem is complex, but as it stands, due to poor safety procedures, inadequate staffing and training, and more, you risk being harmed any time you enter a hospital. Among the top mistakes and mishaps to be aware of are:
How to Stay Out of the Hospital
By nourishing your physical and mental health with the proper tools, you can drastically lower your chances of needing to go to the hospital. You will need to take control of your health to do so and avoid becoming another sad statistic.
Remember, some of the best ways to improve your health are very inexpensive. Some are even free. Below I've listed a number of these basic strategies you can use to avoid getting sucked into the current disease-care paradigm.
Following these guidelines will be a powerful way to avoid premature aging, and improve your health, no matter what your age, so you can avoid having to take your chances in a hospital.
- Address your emotional traumas and manage your stress
- Get optimal exposure to sunlight, a safe tanning bed or take oral vitamin D if this is not possible to optimize your vitamin D levels
- Drink plenty of clean water
- Limit your exposure to toxins
- Consume healthy fat
- Eat a healthy diet that’s right for your nutritional type (paying very careful attention to keeping your insulin levels down)
- Eat plenty of raw food
- Optimize your insulin and leptin levels
- Exercise, especially higher intensity ones like Peak Fitness
- Get plenty of good sleep
What to do if You Have to go to the Hospital
In the event that you need to spend time in a hospital, you need to be your own patient-safety advocate, and also ask a family member or friend to act as one for you when you're not able.
Remember, first and foremost, that your life is in the hands of your health care providers, and you have every right to be informed about every procedure that is performed on you. So be vigilant in asking questions about medications, medical procedures and surgery before they are given to you or performed.
You will also want to ask your physicians and nurses to double-check their orders before injecting a drug into your IV, administering radiation, hooking up medical tubing or performing surgery to make sure they have the right body part, procedure, tube, dosage, etc. You can also ask your providers to wash their hands when they come into your room.
The HealthGrades 2010 report also found major discrepancies in medical errors between the hospitals at the top of the list and those at the bottom, so if you have a choice of hospitals, do your research first. You can find patient-safety ratings at hospitals across the United States from the HealthGrades Web site.