When Was the Last Time You Went to the Hospital?

2016-05-18_2307Last week, a friend mentioned a statistic to me that was so outlandish, there was no way it could be true.

“Apparently,” he said, “Hospitals cause more deaths in the US than anything other than heart disease and cancer.”

What? Hospitals cause deaths? That doesn’t make sense.

But then I read the article he was referring to. It clearly says that medical errors in hospitals and other health-care facilities are the third-leading cause of death in the US. They claim over 250,000 lives each year.

The article mentions that the category includes “everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns.”

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the hospital (a freakish peritonsillar abscess nearly 10 years ago–don’t do a Google image search for it). The care I got was good–I never felt like my life was at risk.

But this is kind of scary, isn’t it? I don’t want to go as far as to say that we’re safer not going to the hospital when we’re ill, but it seems like if 250,000 people are dying because they go to the hospital, something needs to change.

What do you think? Does this concern you?


9 Responses to “When Was the Last Time You Went to the Hospital?”

  1. Conor McGoey says:

    Unfortunately I’ve been in the hospital a fair bit due to a bowel complication as an infant. Fast forward until last year when I spent 8 months with an impossible to find internal blood leak. Eventually after swallowing a few pill size cameras and some other procedures I won’t gross you out with, they did find and fix me. All at no financial cost (thank you Canada!). And on top of that I took my sick and recovery time to create my latest game which normally I wouldn’t have any time to do. The long and the short of it. They’ve healed me every time I needed them. I trust them and will be back. Hopefully not to soon 🙂

  2. This is a really tricky one, and something that is a constant source of consternation for health care professionals like myself. I speak from a place of experience here as I’ve worked in medical imaging, in a hospital setting, for over ten years now.

    This is an extremely complex issue, especially since so many things are counted as ‘medical error’. Basically, anything that is a “preventable, adverse effect of care” falls into this, but that includes people going against their physician’s recommendation.

    You can only treat people that allow you to treat them, and you can only treat the symptoms that they present with, or you risk legal action. Add to that the ever growing amounts of red tape and reduced funding from things like Obamacare, and you end up with medical professionals being constantly hamstrung while trying to do what’s best for the patient.

    I’ll offer a direct example: my organization has implemented a policy that restricts or outright bans certain language pertaining to obesity. We are not allowed to say “obese, fat, overweight, diet” etc when taking to patients for fear of them feeling uncomfortable, because payouts to hospitals are now more weighted towards patient satisfaction than actual results. If a morbidly obese patient dies of weight related complications, it counts as medical error if it was deemed preventable, which it usually is. But how do you prevent it if you can’t even talk about it?

    I could go on and on, because there is just so much to this. Ultimately, we care about your health, and will do what we can, but the patient has to put in the effort as well.

    You are right about one thing Jamey; if you can stay away from the hospital, you are far more likely to live longer, but that is a symptom of a healthy lifestyle, and not one of deadly health care accidents.

    If Americans actually cared about their health, things would be very different.

  3. Sara says:

    It absolutely concerns me. I know more about medical issues than the average person due to my veterinary experience over the years (I do rescue and have taken thousands of dogs to the vet – many with complex and weird issues). I was also my mother’s medical advocate (she’s passed on now). For instance, I’m 45, and my BP has slowly crept up over the years. I do have a bit of “white coat syndrome” which makes my BP register higher from being stressed about my appointment. The concerned nurse taking my BP always wants me to take several deep breaths and just zen out for a minute. She then takes my BP again; it is lower than it was 30 seconds ago; she smiles and acts as if the first reading was just an accident. Here is my major problem with this:

    I think that making my BP reading lower by a couple of deep breaths is creating a false sense of security for their records. I say that because my numbers are still high, but just below the threshold for them to give me BP meds. I certainly am not running around in a zen state during my normal day. My usual operating BP as I go about my day has got to be over the threshold – never mind what it must spike to when I’m stressed or angry. I mentioned my numbers to my dentist, and he was positively insistent that I need BP meds – and NOW.

    I had a follow-up appointment with my doc to address this, but her office called at the last minute to cancel it. I had to call and reschedule it; here I wait.

    As for whether I’m cooperating with sound medical advice: I had already been eating better and exercising more. My cholesterol is the best it’s been in 10 years, and that’s without medication.

    • First, let me say that I think it’s awesome that you are taking an active role in trying to lower your bp. Stick with it!

      Are you referring to your primary care doctor?

      If so, I’d recommend finding a new one if you aren’t confident in the care you are receiving.

      • Sara says:

        Yes, it’s my primary care doc. However, I have Kaiser. That’s pretty much the way they roll. I’m surprised she wants to see me at all. She doesn’t actually do anything except listen to my heart & lungs and then send me to the lab for blood work. I’ve always had to stomp up and down to get any treatment to progress. I have to remind myself that the average person does not necessarily know when to insist. For instance, my mother developed edema in her lower legs and feet. She was not diabetic. She had gone to the doc and was told she was fine. I made a second appointment for Mom and went with her. I pointed to Mom’s legs and asked how on earth she could be told she’s fine when she’s so blown up her toes can’t even touch. Suddenly they decided that she’d better be on a diuretic and wear some compression stockings to take care of it.

        I don’t want meds to be the very first thing for every condition. I will try to correct things myself if I can. The BP isn’t responding – let’s move forward! I don’t want my doctor to just roll over for me or send me for a colonoscopy when I have a hangnail. However, there’s just got to be some middle ground.

        Then there’s the time when my friend was having abdominal pain, throwing up and was unable to poop. I told him to call and get an appointment. The advice nurse wouldn’t give him an appointment – told him to eat more broccoli. I called them right back myself and insisted my friend get an appointment ASAP. The nurse said we could always go to the ER. Nope! Why should he pay that ER copay in lieu of getting a timely doc appointment? It wasn’t an emergency at the time, but it was urgent and could become an emergency if not dealt with. Well, it turned out my friend had appendicitis. The appendix had ruptured by the time the appointment came around. If his pain had been worse, I would have taken him to the ER. He told me his pain was at level 4-5, which I thought was consistent with a bad case of constipation. I always thought appendicitis was pretty much always level 8-10. Now I’ll know for next time I hear about and/or experience those symptoms!

  4. Sara says:

    I totally forgot that I was going to talk about the way medications are dispensed in hospitals. When my mom was in the hospital each of 3 separate times, the nurses would bring a cup of pills. I’d ask what they were, and was told “oh it’s medicine for your mom.” Ohhh thanks for explaining that to me. I’m glad I asked!

    When I ask a nurse what’s in the cup… whether it’s for a family member or for me… they’d better be able to tell me the name, strength and purpose of every pill in there. If they can’t tell me that, they can come back when they know. Nurses and doctors not wanting to bother explaining what things are or what they’re for – that is a huge reason for medication mistakes. We had to send lots of things back because it contained meds that had been discontinued, already given, were supposed to be taken on an empty/full stomach when the stomach was not in the correct state at the time, evening pills presented in the morning… Always know what’s being given, what strength and why.

  5. This comment is for perspective, rather than to discredit one system or another, but it does bear mentioning to show that this isn’t just a symptom of our current system in the US.

    Population of the US: 315m
    Medical error deaths: 250k

    Population of Canada: 35m
    Medical error deaths: between 30 and 60k

    https://www.uhn.ca/corporate/News/Pages/Dr_Peter_Pisters_looks_ahead_with_new_vision_for_UHN.aspx

    https://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/2012/05/16/activist-calls-deaths-from-medical-errors-in-canada-an-epidemic

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I just wanted to chime in to say that this conversation is really informative! Thank you all for sharing. I’m at a convention and can’t comment much, but I’m reading the comments. 🙂

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