Transparency. It’s available in many industries, yet notably missing in the one area where it matters the most: medical care. Although some strides have been made at various institutions across the country, that progress is hardly the norm at a large majority of hospitals. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal from a doctor at Johns Hopkins University analyzes the problem, but perhaps more importantly, offers up solutions on how we can move forward.
When you go to a restaurant or perhaps take your car into a mechanic, do you just go to whatever place is closest? In today’s digital world, more and more people are going to sites like Yelp to figure out if a business is worth their time. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with hospitals, who rarely make their track records known to patients. In fact, an obscene amount of patients were shown to base their care decision on which facility had the best parking.
This needs to change, and it can with increased visibility of success rates and outcomes. The author argues that medical facilities need to make accessible information relating to infection rates, complications from surgery, instances where an individual has to check back into a hospital, and unsubstantiated errors like how many times a piece of equipment was left in a patient (it happens more than you’d think).
Accountability has been shown to lead to better results. New York hospitals were forced to post death rates related to heart surgeries beginning in 1989. It only took six years for such fatality rates to drop by a staggering 89%. Doctors got the message that patients wouldn’t submit to a procedure in a facility with a higher likelihood of mortality. Similarly, the use of cameras in medical procedures has also led to better practices. At North Shore University Hospital in Rhode Island, compliance with hand washing regulations used to hover below 10%. That all changed once cameras were installed; now hand washing compliance stands at a rate of over 90%.
One thing that must not be allowed to continue, the author argues, is the process of imposing a gag order on patients. Doctors worried about their reputation are asking patients to vow not to disparage them on any platform, and even persons whose care has been so woefully inadequate that a lawsuit has been filed are typically required not to speak out about their experience if they want to reach a settlement. This infringement on patients’ rights has to end.
Finally, doctors are encouraged to share their notes with patients and promote a culture of safety throughout the hospital. These simple steps can go a long way toward saving lives and cutting down on deaths resulting from medical errors, which currently are the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.