Examing Issues Affecting Quality and Safety in Healthcare

It seems like you can’t turn on the news or have a conversation with a friend without encountering a complaint about quality and safety in healthcare. Whether it’s medical errors, long waits to see a specialist or high costs, everyone seems to have a complaint but few seem to have a solution. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, (AHRQ) a division of the United States Department of Health & Human Services, both underuse and overuse of medical services create quality problems. It also identified the lack of equal care for patients in small towns and variations in quality as current problems.

Overuse of Medical Services

Quality and Safety in Healthcare

AHRQ states that millions of Americans receive medical services each year that they don’t really need. This sometimes occurs due to their own insistence, but it’s more common for doctors to order unnecessary tests or perform unnecessary operations. In a study it conducted, the AHRQ found that one woman in six who received a hysterectomy didn’t really need it. Not only does this increase healthcare costs, but it can also endanger patients’ lives.

Underuse of Medical Services

Quality and Safety in Healthcare

On the other end of the spectrum are patients who suffer needlessly and die prematurely because they don’t get the medical care they need. This often requires more aggressive and expensive health interventions in the future. When the AHRQ conducted a large study of Medicare patients who had suffered a heart attack, it discovered that only 21 percent of people who could benefit from beta blockers received them. Addressing patient needs more accurately saves considerable money and helps them to remain productive.

Differences in Patient Care

People in large cities or suburbs have access to higher quality medical care than those living in small towns or rural communities. This lack of equal access continues to exist despite the shift to evidence-based practice. Even more troubling is the fact that members of racial minority groups received high-quality, lifesaving care far less often than Caucasian patients.

To prove its theory, the AHRQ conducted a study of heart attack patients at the University of Alabama. It discovered an underuse problem regarding the use of beta blockers for all populations. However, African Americans who had suffered a heart attack received the evidence-based, life-saving drug much less often than patients of other races.

Patients Injured During Treatment

Too many patients suffer negative effects from treatment intended to help them. This is yet another problem with the quality and safety of healthcare. The Center for Patient Safety reports some sobering statistics:

  • 98,000 patients die every year due to all types of medical errors
  • 770,000 people annually experience an unintended drug reaction leading to serious injury or death and an annual cost of 5.6 billion dollars
  • 1.7 million people pick up an infection in a healthcare environment every year and 99,000 die because of it
  • All medical errors combined cost an average of 20 billion dollars per year in additional healthcare costs
  • While the quality of patient care is slowly improving, the same cannot be said for advances in safety

Although everyone makes mistakes, an error in a medical setting has far-reaching and possibly deadly consequences. Every organization can improve, even those with nearly perfect patient safety records. It’s the only way to gain patient trust.

When You’re Ready to Improve Outcomes for Your Healthcare Organization

Quality and Safety in Healthcare

It’s hard to improve when you don’t understand the best and worst competencies of your clinic, hospital, or other healthcare facilities. Health Catalyst offers a free assessment to show you specific ways to improve. Once you have had the chance to review it, feel free to contact us to learn more about our individual services.

In some of the early years of medical practice, it wasn’t uncommon but more often widely accepted, that a bloody surgical coat signified the efficiency and well-practiced background of a doctor. Many doctors would refuse to wash or replace this “lucky” coat in hopes that their success would continue. In modern times, we would be horrified if we witnessed anything similar at a hospital or clinic.

The Institute of Medicine Health suggests that a third or more of health care expenditures are wasted. That means that for every billion dollars we spend on health care,we are spending around $300 million of it needlessly. Since we are spending around $2.6 TRILLION on health care every year, that’s a lot of wasted money. Depending on who you ask, that’s between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion dollars being thrown away every year

The jump from a show of pride in a sterile practice is light years apart, yet there are improvements made within healthcare which produce radical benefits for each one of us. Because these changes are not so outwardly dramatic, they may just be so commonplace and thus go unrecognized. For example, almost no one would opt out of anesthesia during even the most basic of procedures. Expectant mothers look forward to seeing their unborn child by way of sonograms. Even the instruments that are used may not be all that far from its creation.

Conclusion om Quality and Safety in Healthcare

The numbers of accidents that happen in a hospital or clinic are incredibly high, and by that, I mean hard to believe. 25% of Medicare patients suffer some form of harm when they are admitted to a hospital. What if other businesses operated the same way? What if you had a 1 in 4 chance of getting mild to severe food poisoning every time you went to a restaurant? Would you go as frequently? Me neither. This is why ensuring quality and safety in healthcare should be at the forefront of any healthcare organization’s strategy and finding ways to improve quality standards should be at the forefront of any healthcare research initiative.