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Frankly Speaking on Patient Safety

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First, do no harm

By Frank Phillips

This phrase is a cherished one throughout healthcare, and a principle by which healthcare facilities and providers alike always seek to abide.

So, in 1999, when the Institute of Medicine published their now famous “To Err is Human” report, individuals and organizations both inside and outside of healthcare were shocked by the findings that an estimated 98,000 people a year die due to mistakes in hospitals. In the years since that report, much has changed in healthcare, but what about patient safety?

What is the scope of the problem, what progress has been made and what are the solutions? Take a look.

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On the Future of Nursing Practice

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Focus on Scope of Practice

[By Staff Reporters]

Transforming the health care system to meet the demand for safe, quality, and affordable care will require a fundamental rethinking of the roles of many health care professionals, including nurses. The 2010 Affordable Care Act represents the broadest health care overhaul since the 1965 creation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, but nurses are unable to fully participate in the resulting evolution of the U.S. health care system. This is true for nurses at all levels, whether they practice in schools or community and public health centers or acute care settings. A variety of historical, cultural, regulatory, and policy barriers limit nurses’ ability to contribute to widespread and meaningful change.

In 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) launched a two-year initiative to respond to the need to assess and transform the nursing profession. The IOM appointed the Committee on the RWJF Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the IOM, with the purpose of producing a report that would make recommendations for an action-oriented blueprint for the future of nursing.

As part of its report, the committee considered the obstacles all nurses encounter as they take on new roles in the transformation of health care in the United States. While challenges face nurses at all levels, the committee took particular note of the legal barriers in many states that prohibit advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) from practicing to their full education and training. The committee determined that such constraints will have to be lifted in order for nurses to assume the responsibilities they can and should be taking during this time of great need.

***

RN

***

The Changing Health Care System

In the 21st century, the health challenges facing the nation have shifted dramatically. The health care system is in the midst of great change as care providers discover new ways to provide patient-centered care; to deliver more primary care as opposed to specialty care; and to deliver more care in the community rather than the acute care setting. Nurses are well poised to meet these needs by virtue of their numbers, scientific knowledge, and adaptive capacity, and health care organizations would benefit from taking advantage of the contributions nurses can make.

Assessment

As the health care system has expanded over the past 40 years, the education and roles of APRNs, in particular, have evolved in such a way that nurses now enter the workplace qualified to provide more services than had been the case previously. Yet while APRNs are educated and trained to do more, some physicians challenge expanding scopes of practice for nurses. The committee stresses that physicians are highly trained and skilled providers and that some services clearly should be provided by physicians, who have received more extensive and specialized education and training than APRNs. However, given the great need for more affordable health care, nurses should be playing a larger role in the health care system, both in delivering care and in decision making about care.

The committee argues that APRNs are not acting as physician extenders or substitutes. They work throughout the entirety of health care, from health promotion and disease prevention to early diagnosis to prevent or limit disability. APRNs sometimes provide services that many people associate with physicians, such as assessing patient conditions or ordering and evaluating tests, but they also incorporate a range of services from other disciplines, including social work, nutrition, and physical therapy.

Conclusion

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Impact of Health Information Technology

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An HIT Infographic

[By HIMSS Clinical Informatics Community]

Practicing clinicians have indicated strong support for the ability of health IT to overcome communication challenges among care providers. Considering that a series of Institute of Medicine reports on errors in healthcare have led to widespread recognition that siloed practices and inadequate communication are primary contributors to medical errors, continued endorsement for health IT will lead to better communication and enhanced quality of care.

The results come from the 2013 iHIT study conducted by HIMSS and HIMSS Analytics, released during HIMSS13, the organization’s annual conference and exhibition. The study was designed to explore the role of health IT from an inter-professional communication perspective. More than 500 clinician respondents working in a care delivery setting provided information on the value of health IT in support of quality care.

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Assessment

According to the study, the health IT tools in place at the provider organizations of respondents support various clinical processes and provide improved access to the information needed to prepare for delivery of care. This includes having improved access to information needed on patients transferring to a clinician’s unit/caseload, ultimately resulting in enhanced levels of patient care.

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Understanding the Modern Challenges of Student Doctors

An Evolving Educational Model

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By Cyndi Laurenti

laurenticy@gmail.com

Medical education could be driving potential doctors away and damaging those who do go on to practice with long hours, high debt, inconsistent training, and lack of emotional support. Research indicates the current structure of residency programs produces resident physicians who are stressed, sleep-deprived, and prone to medical errors.

Medical Residents

Medical school graduates who’ve begun their on-the-job training are called residents varying in length from three to seven years, depending on the specializations doctors pursue. Most programs utilize experienced physicians called preceptors to teach the new doctors how to practice their particular branches of medicine. Another common practice is to pair second- or third-year residents with one or more first-year residents, so the senior students take on some of the teaching and supervision roles.

Duties

Residents admit patients to the hospital, obtain medical histories, perform examinations, and administer treatments or do procedures under the guidance of the senior resident or preceptor.

The hours in a residency program are long. Despite recommendations from the Institutes of Medicine intended to decrease long shifts and work hours, 80-hour weeks are common in residency programs and 30-hour shifts with five-hour sleep periods are the norm. Moreover, those 80-hour work weeks represent the average over a four-week period, so a resident might actually work considerably longer in a single week.

Work Shifts

Rotating shifts, in which residents work at different times of the day or night, are also common. Sleep deprivation is the norm: a 2004 survey of over 3,000 residents reported 66 percent slept less than six hours a night, and 20 percent slept less than five. Of even more concern, those who slept less than five hours a night reported they had used alcohol, resorted to stimulants to stay awake, had serious accidents or injuries, had conflicts with other professional staff, or made serious medical errors.

Financial Stress

Many residents also face financial or family stressors as well. Debt is common in medical school: the New England Journal of Medicine reports one fourth of graduating residents have debt exceeding $200,000. Some residents use their limited free time to moonlight for additional income as the average medical resident salary is about $45,000 per year.

Age

Medical residents are often in their late twenties or early thirties, a time when many people look to starting families. The lack of income may drive them to work extra hours in an already crowded schedule, which prevents them from spending time with children or a spouse, if indeed they manage to have either. Research from as far back as 1986 indicated over 40 percent of medical residents experience problems with their spouses during residency. Respondents often feel the working conditions of residency contribute to family problems, which in turn affect their hospital work as a result. On a positive note, researchers have found stress can be moderated by family relationships and social contact, and recommended social support systems be fostered in residency programs.

Stress

Emotional stress related to patient care is another aspect of the issues with residency. Over 70 percent of residents in one study reported hospital activities such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation were extremely stressful and the lack of a debriefing session afterward increased the impact of that stress, particularly when the resident felt the resuscitation was inappropriate.

Recipe for Disaster?

The combination of stress and sleep deprivation is a recipe for disaster. A study at HarvardUniversityfound residents who worked extended shifts or long hours were involved in 300 percent more fatal errors than when they did not work excessive hours. These same physicians reported they were likely to fall asleep during surgery, patient examinations, hospital rounds or lectures, and that their medical errors induced guilt, anger, humiliation, and decreased compassion for the patients they treated.

To add to these stresses, as recently as October 2011 almost half of graduate physicians in one survey reported they had been harassed, intimidated or discriminated against while residents. These behaviors took the form of verbal abuse and being assigned extra work as punishment. The sources of inappropriate behavior were primarily specialty physicians, but specialty residents, hospital nurses, and patients also participated in the harassment.

The Changing Paradigm

Some residency programs have made changes to improve the quality of life for residents. These include strategies such as decreasing patient load, senior residents supervising a single resident instead of two or more, and decreasing hand-offs, the transfer of patients from one group of residents to another. Other recommendations include debriefing sessions for stressful situations such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ethics committees to which residents can take complicated problems, and increased emotional support.

I.O.M

Other possible strategies include a decreased shift length, or simply adherence to the Institutes of Medicine’s guidelines for residency training programs. Social networks for residents’ spouses and families would provide a forum to air concerns and obtain emotional support from those in similar circumstances.

Additional efforts to relieve medical student debt would also make a considerable positive impact. A program currently exists in theUnited Statesfor physicians to obtain loan forgiveness: the National Health Service Corps pays off medical student debt if the physician practices full-time at a NHSC-approved site, usually a federally-qualified health center, rural or Indian Health service clinics, or prison. If a physician serves full-time for six or more years, the entire debt may be repaid by the NHSC.

Assessment

Most residency programs in other parts of the world are similar to those in theUnited States, although there may be different laws that affect work hours or salaries. There is clear evidence that overstressed and sleep-deprived residents are more likely to make serious or even fatal medical errors and lose their sense of compassion for patients. The current residency system is expensive, emotionally stressful, and puts the lives of patients at risk. America (and likely other nations as well) would benefit from making even more changes in residency programs to provide adequate time for sleep, family or social interaction, and emotional support for fledgling doctors.

About the Author

While she figures out her next career move, Cyndi Laurenti works as an online writer and editor. Her primary interests are education, technology, and how to combine them. She enjoys the trees and beaches of thePacific Northwest, and looking things up on other people’s iPhones.

Conclusion

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Defining Electronic Medical Record Systems

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Does Linguistic Obfuscation Exacerbate our Use Ambivalence?

[By Dr. Richard J. Mata; CIS, CMP™]

[By Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA, CMP™]

The 2003 Institute of Medicine (IOM) Patient Safety Report [1] described an EHR [2] as encompassing:

  • a longitudinal collection of electronic health information for and about persons;
  • [immediate] electronic access to person- and population-level information by authorized users;
  • provision of knowledge and decision-support systems [that enhance the quality, safety, and;
  • efficiency of patient care] with support for efficient processes for health care delivery.

The IOM Report

A 1997 IOM report, The Computer-Based Patient Record: An Essential Technology for Health Care, provides a more extensive definition:

A patient record system is a type of clinical information system, which is dedicated to collecting, storing, manipulating, and making available clinical information important to the delivery of patient care. The central focus of such systems is clinical data and not financial or billing information. Such systems may be limited in their scope to a single area of clinical information (e.g., dedicated to laboratory data), or they may be comprehensive and cover virtually every facet of clinical information pertinent to patient care (e.g., computer-based patient record systems).

The HIMSS Model

The EHR definitional model document developed by the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS, 2003) includes:

“a working definition of an EHR, attributes, key requirements to meet attributes, and measures or ‘evidence’ to assess the degree to which essential requirements have been met once EHR is implemented.”

 

The IOM Model

Another IOM report, Key Capabilities of an Electronic Health Record System [Tang, 2003], identifies a set of eight core care delivery functions that EHR systems should be capable of performing in order to promote greater safety, quality and efficiency in health care delivery:

8 Core Principles

Today, we realize that the eight core capabilities that Electronic Health [Medical] Records should possess are:

  1. — Health information and data. Having immediate access to key information – such as patients’ diagnoses, allergies, lab test results, and medications – would improve caregivers’ ability to make sound clinical decisions in a timely manner.
  2. — Result management. The ability for all providers participating in the care of a patient in multiple settings to quickly access new and past test results would increase patient safety and the effectiveness of care.
  3. — Order management. The ability to enter and store orders for prescriptions, tests, and other services in a computer-based system should enhance legibility, reduce duplication, and improve the speed with which orders are executed.
  4. — Decision support. Using reminders, prompts, and alerts, computerized decision-support systems would help improve compliance with best clinical practices, ensure regular screenings and other preventive practices, identify possible drug interactions, and facilitate diagnoses and treatments.
  5. — Electronic communication and connectivity. Efficient, secure, and readily accessible communication among providers and patients would improve the continuity of care, increase the timeliness of diagnoses and treatments, and reduce the frequency of adverse events.
  6. — Patient support. Tools that give patients access to their health records, provide interactive patient education, and help them carry out home monitoring and self-testing can improve control of chronic conditions, such as diabetes.
  7. — Administrative processes. Computerized administrative tools, such as scheduling systems, would greatly improve hospitals’ and clinics’ efficiency and provide more timely service to patients.
  8. — Reporting. Electronic data storage that employs uniform data standards will enable health care organizations to respond more quickly to federal, state, and private reporting requirements, including those that support patient safety and disease surveillance.” [3]

Assessment

With all the confusion surrounding terms like quality improvement and “meaningful use” which can mean major Federal dollars to the coffers of a medical practice, clinic or hospital; are we still confused about basic definitional terms?

And, does eMR linguistic obfuscation exacerbate our use ambivalence and encourage physician/dentist eMR avoidance?

Conclusion

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References:

[1]   See http://www.himss.org/content/files/PatientSafetyFinalReport8252003.pdf.

[2]   EHR (electronic health record) is often used interchangeably with EMR (electronic medical record).  In this discussion, EHR will be used consistently.

[3]   See http://www.iom.edu/.

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On Hospital CPOE Systems [Part One]

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Computerized Physician Order Entry Systems

[By Brent Metfessel MD, MIS]

Since the late 1990s, there has been increasing pressure for hospitals to develop processes to ensure quality of care. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has estimated the number of annual deaths from medical error to be 44,000 to 98,000.  Manual entry of orders, use of non-standard abbreviations, and poor legibility of orders and chart notes contribute to medical errors.  They also concluded that most errors are the result of system failures, not people failures.

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Other studies suggest that between 6.5% and 20% of hospitalized patients will experience an adverse drug event (ADE) during their stay. Both quality and cost of care suffer.  The cost for each ADE is estimated to be about $2,000 to $2,500, mainly resulting from longer lengths of stay. The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics reported that about 23,000 hospital patients die annually from injuries linked specifically to the use of medications.

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The Joint Commission and the Leapfrog Group

In addition, the Joint Commission and the Leapfrog Group, a consortium of large employers, have pushed patient safety as a high priority and hospitals are following suit. The Leapfrog Group in particular highlighted CPOE systems as one of the changes that would most improve patient safety.  These patient safety initiatives have further advanced CPOE systems, since these systems have the reduction of medical errors as a prime function.  State and federal legislatures have also stepped up activity in this regard.

For example, back in July 2004, the federal government strongly advocated for electronic medical records, including the creation of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to develop a National Health Information Network. Consequently, regional health information organizations have been established in many states, and these are used for the purpose of expediting the sharing and exchange of healthcare data and information, although there still remain issues in terms of providing adequate funding to these programs.

In addition, consideration was given to the allocation of grants and low-interest loans to aid hospitals in implementing healthcare technology solutions.  In 2000, California first enacted legislation (Senate Bill 1875) stating that as a condition of licensure, acute care hospitals, with the exception of small and rural hospitals, submit plans to implement technological solutions (such as CPOE systems) to substantially reduce medication-related errors by January 1, 2002. Hospitals in California had until January 1, 2005, to actually implement their medication error-reduction plans and make them operational. Unfortunately, many are still not in compliance today.

Health plans also entered the patient safety stage. In 2002, one large health plan in the northeast provided a 4% bonus to hospitals implementing a CPOE system and staffing intensive care units (ICUs) with “intensivists.” Today, this goal is almost the norm, but not yet reality for all.

More than Data Retrieval 

Many hospitals have “data retrieval” systems where a provider on the wards can obtain lab results and other information. A CPOE system, however, allows entry of data from the wards and is usually coupled with a “decision support” module that does just that — supports the provider in making decisions that maximize care quality and/or cost effectiveness.

In this application of HIT, physicians and possibly other providers enter hospital orders directly into the computer. Many vendors of such systems make special efforts to create an intuitive and user-friendly interface, with a variable range of customization possibilities. The physicians can enter orders either on a workstation on the ward or in some cases at the bedside.

Features of a True CPOE System

Basic features of CPOE should include the following:

  • Medication analysis system — A medication analysis program usually accompanies the order entry system. In such cases, either after order entry or interactively, the system checks for potential problems such as drug-drug interactions, duplicate orders, drug allergies and hypersensitivities, and dosage miscalculations. More sophisticated systems may also check for drug interactions with co-morbidities (e.g., psychiatric drugs that may increase blood pressure in a depressed patient with hypertension), drug-lab interactions (e.g., labs pointing to renal impairment that may adversely affect drug levels), and suggestions to use drugs with the same therapeutic effect but lower cost. Naturally, physicians have the option to decline the alerts and continue with the order. In fact, if there are alerts that providers are frequently overriding, providers will often provide feedback that can lead to modification of the alert paradigms. Encouraging feedback increases the robustness of the CPOE system and facilitates continuous quality improvement.
  • Order clarity — Reading the handwriting of providers is a legendary problem. Although many providers do perfectly well with legibility, other providers have difficulty due to being rushed, stressed, or due to trait factors. Since the orders are accessible directly on the workstation screen or from the printer, time is saved on callbacks to decipher illegible orders as well as preventing possible errors in order translation. A study in 1986 by Georgetown University Hospital (Washington, D.C.) noted that 16% of all manual medical records are illegible. Clarifying these orders takes professional time, and resources are spent duplicating the data; thus, real cost savings can be realized through the elimination of these processes.
  • Increased work efficiency — Instantaneous electronic transmittal of orders to radiology, laboratory, pharmacy, consulting services, or other departments replaces corresponding manual tasks. This increase in efficiency from a CPOE system has significant returns. In one hospital in the southeast, the time taken between drug order submission and receipt by the pharmacy was shortened from 96 minutes (using paper) to 3 minutes. Such an increase in efficiency can save labor costs and lead to earlier discharge of patients. The same hospital noted a 72% reduction in medication error rates during a three-month period after the system was implemented. Alerting providers to duplicate lab orders further saves costs from more efficient work processes. And, in another instance, the time from writing admission orders to execution of the orders decreased from about six hours to 30 minutes, underscoring CPOE system utility in making work processes more efficient; thus positively affecting the bottom line.

Assessment

In today’s environment of high expectations for care quality and pay-for-performance initiatives, enhanced quality of care can translate into financial gain. Although there is a significant up-front allocation of funds for CPOE systems, given present trends the time may arrive where there is no longer a choice but to implement such a system.

Conclusion

Although a Computerized Physician Order Entry system alone will reap significant benefits if intelligently implemented, in order to realize the greatest benefit a CPOE system should be rolled up into a fully functioning EMR system where feasible.

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Remembering the IOM Medical Quality Report

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Despite the IOM Warning, Medical Errors May Have Killed 1 Million Plus In Past Decade

[By Fard Johnmar: First posted May 20, 2009]

IOM Report

Much like remembering the fallen Berlin Wall, it is fitting during this time of political healthcare reform debate, to again consider the IOM report – now more than a decade old.

In a scathing report, Consumers Union estimates that more than 1 million people have died over the last decade due to preventable medical harm.  The newly released report, “To Err is Human — To Delay is Deadly,” suggests that since the Institute of Medicine’s influential 1999 report on medical errors, “98,000 people die each year needlessly because of preventable medical harm, including healthcare-acquired infections. Ten years after To Err is Human, we have no national entity comprehensively tracking patient safety events or progress.”

While some hospitals have made great strides in the effort to reduce medical errors and the U.S. government has taken steps to limit reimbursement for preventable medical events, the nation still has a long way to go.  Consumers Union is recommending that we develop a national system for tracking medical errors.  The organization suggests that concerns about malpractice lawsuits due to reports of medical harm may be overstated.

Assessment

To learn more about the Consumer Union report, please click here.

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Conclusion

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In Severe Pandemic, Officials Ponder Disconnecting Ventilators

Understanding the So-Called New York Protocol

By Sheri Fink

ProPublica NewsEmergency Sign

With scant public input, state and federal officials are pushing ahead with plans that — during a severe flu outbreak — would deny use of scarce ventilators by some patients to assure they would be available for patients judged to benefit the most from them. 

The plans have been drawn up to give doctors specific guidelines for extreme circumstances, and they include procedures under which patients who weren’t improving would be removed from life support with or without permission of the families. 

The plans are designed to go into effect if the U.S. were struck by a severe flu pandemic comparable to the 1918 outbreak that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. State and federal health officials have concluded that such a pandemic would sicken far more people needing ventilators than could be treated by the available supplies. 

VA Guidelines

Many of the draft guidelines, including those drawn up by the Veterans Health Administration, are based in part on a draft plan New York officials posted on a state web site two years ago and subsequently published in an academic journal. The New York protocol, which is still being finalized, also calls for hospitals to withhold ventilators from patients with serious chronic conditions such as kidney failure, cancers that have spread and have a poor prognosis, or “severe, irreversible neurological” conditions that are likely to be deadly. 

New York officials are studying possible legal grounds under which the governor could suspend a state law that bars doctors from removing patients from life support without the express consent of the patient or his or her authorized health agent. 

Medicare Payment

State and federal officials involved with drafting the plans say they have been disquieted by this summer’s uproar over whether Medicare should pay for end-of-life consultations with families. They acknowledged that the measures under discussion go far beyond anything the public understands about how hospitals might handle a severe pandemic. 

By every indication, state and federal officials expect to weather this year’s flu season without having to ration ventilators. That assumes that the H1N1 virus will not mutate into a more serious killer, the vaccines against it and the other seasonal flus will continue to prove effective, and any dramatic surges in the number of patients in need of ventilators will occur in different parts of the U.S. at different times. 

In recent months, New York officials have met three times with physicians, respiratory therapists and administrators to rehearse how their plan might play out in hospitals in a severe epidemic. In one of those “tabletop exercises,” participants suggested that the names of triage officers charged with making life and death choices among patients at each hospital should be kept secret. The secrecy would be needed, participants said in interviews, to avoid pressure and blame from colleagues caring for patients who were selected to be taken off life support. 

When they posted their plan on the web in coordination with a video conference in 2007, New York officials promised to solicit public input. Since then, they have consulted with medical and legal professionals and other experts, but few members of the general public, and the plan has remained unchanged. They declined to make the comments they have gathered immediately available for review, and those comments are not published on the Health Department’s Web site

In the initial proposal, officials called public review “an important component in fulfilling the ethical obligation to promote transparency and just guidelines.” 

The academic publication of the plan envisaged the use of focus groups to solicit comment from “a range of community members, including parents, older adults, people with disabilities, and communities of color.” Those have not been held. 

Beth Roxland, the current executive director of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, said the ethicists included in the state’s planning process focused largely on vulnerable populations. “Even if we didn’t have direct input from vulnerable populations,” she said, “their interests have been well accounted for.” Roxland said that public comment solicited when the ventilator plan was posted on the Health Department Web site was “sparse.” 

Dr. Guthrie Birkhead, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health for New York State said he wondered whether it was possible to get the public to accept the plans. “In the absence of an extreme emergency, I don’t know. How do you even engage them to explain it to them?” 

Even so, other states, hospital systems and the Veterans Health Administration—which has 153 medical centers across all states — have drafted protocols that are based in part on New York’s plan. The inclusion and exclusion criteria for access to ventilators, however, are different. For example, under the current drafts, a patient on dialysis would be considered for a ventilator in a VA hospital in New York during a severe pandemic, but not in another New York hospital that followed the State’s plan, which excludes dialysis patients. The VA’s exclusion criteria are looser because the patient population it is charged with serving is typically older and sicker than in other acute care hospitals. Different states, reflecting different values, have also established different criteria for who gets access to lifesaving resources. 

IOM Input

The Institute of Medicine, an independent national advisory body, is expected to release a report on Thursday morning, at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that will recommend broad guidelines to help guide planners crafting altered standards of care in emergencies. At an open meeting held to inform the report on Sept. 1, participants described successful public exercises related to allocating scarce resources in Utah and in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study conducted in Seattle. 

Questions about how hospitals would handle massive demand for life support equipment arose when New York state health department officials ran exercises based on a scenarios involving H5N1 avian influenza.

“They kept running out of ventilators,” said Dr. Tia Powell, director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics and former executive director of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, which was asked to address the problem. “They immediately recognized this is the worst thing we’ve ever imagined. What on earth are we going to do?” 

Officials calculated that 18,000 additional New Yorkers would require ventilators in the peak week of a flu outbreak as deadly as the 1918 pandemic. Only a thousand machines would be available, the officials estimated. The state’s acute care hospitals in 2005 had about 6000 ventilators, 85% of which were normally in use. A moderately severe pandemic would have resulted in a shortfall of 1256 ventilators, health officials found. 

In 2006, New York planners convened a group of experts in disaster medicine, bioethics and public policy to come up with a response. After months of discussion, the group produced the system for allocating ventilators. They first recommended a number of ways that hospitals could stretch supply, for example by canceling all elective surgeries during a severe pandemic. The state has also since purchased and stockpiled 1700 Pulmonetic Systems LTV 1200 ventilators (Cardinal Health Inc., NYSE) — enough to deal with a moderate pandemic but not one of 1918 scale. 

Officials realized those two measures alone would not be enough to meet demand in a worst-case scenario. Ventilators were costly, required highly trained operators, and used oxygen, which could be limited in a disaster. 

Ventilator Rationing

The group then drew up plans for rationing of ventilators. The goal, participants said, was to save as many lives as possible while adhering to an ethical framework. This represented a departure from the usual medical standard of care, which focuses on doing everything possible to save each individual life. Setting out guidelines in advance of a crisis was a way to avoid putting exhausted, stressed front line health professionals in the position of having to come up with criteria for making excruciating life and death decisions in the midst of a crisis, as many New Orleans health professionals had to do after Hurricane Katrina.

The group based its plans, in part, on a 2006 protocol developed by health officials in Ontario, Canada which relied on quantitative assessments of organ function to decide which patients would have preference for an intensive care unit bed. The tool, known as the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score, is not designed to predict survival, and not validated for use in children, but the experts adopted it in light of the lack of an appropriate alternative triage system. 

This summer, New York officials brought the state’s plan to groups from several New York hospitals for the tabletop exercises. They met behind closed doors to assess how hospitals might implement the proposed measures if the H1N1 pandemic turned unexpectedly severe this fall. In the fictional scenario, paramedics were ordered not to place breathing tubes into patients until physicians “can assess whether they meet the criteria to be placed on a ventilator.’’ 

Problems were immediately apparent. Dr. Kenneth Prager, a professor of medicine and director of clinical ethics at Columbia University Medical Center, was concerned about the lack of awareness of the plan among the larger public and the majority of the medical community. Societal input “is totally absent,” he said and called for more outreach to the public. “Maybe society will say, ‘We don’t agree with your plan. You may think it’s ethically OK; we don’t.'” 

The Protocol

The protocol, he said, would also place a great burden on clinicians charged with selecting which patients would be removed from life support. Physicians were concerned doctors involved in the legitimate and painful selection processes might be inappropriately construed as “death squads.” “We facetiously dubbed them the ‘death squad’ or the ‘guys in the back room’,” Prager said. He envisioned family members breaking down and screaming when they found out their loved ones would be disconnected from ventilators. “It really is a nightmare.” 

Even so, he felt that the plan – and its effort to save the greatest number of patients – was ethically appropriate. “If we don’t use triage, people will die who would have otherwise been saved,” he said, because a number of ventilators are “being used to prolong the dying process of patients with virtually no chance of surviving.” 

Doctors at the exercises feared that they would be sued by angry patients if they followed the draft guidelines. “There’s absolutely no legal backing for physicians,” said Lauren Ferrante, a medical resident at Columbia University Medical Center. “Who’s to say we’re not going to get sued for malpractice?” 

New York State law forbids doctors from removing living patients from ventilators or other life support except in cases where the patient has clearly stated such wishes, for example in a living will, or through his or her legal health care agent. Other sources of liability could come from federal and state anti-discrimination laws or claims of denial of due process. 

New York officials said they were currently working out legal options for implementing the plans, such as gubernatorial emergency declarations or emergency legislation. 

“You can take something today that’s not necessarily active and overnight flip the switch and make it into something that has those teeth in it,” said Dr. Powell, who served on the committee that drafted the plan.

Dr. Powell cautioned that it is critically important to maintain flexibility in the guidelines. Any rationing measures taken in a disaster must be calibrated to need and severity. 

Guidelines can also promote investment in new technology, such as cheaper, easier to use ventilators that would make rationing less likely. Already at least one company, St. Louis-based Allied Healthcare Products, is marketing a line of ventilators specifically for use in disasters. 

Some states, including Louisiana and Indiana, have adopted laws that immunize health professionals against civil lawsuits for their work in disasters. Other states, including Colorado, have drawn up a series of relevant executive orders that could be applied to address these issues.

Assessment 

Dr. Carl Schultz, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California at Irvine and co-editor of the forthcoming textbook, Koenig and Schultz’s Disaster Medicine (Cambridge University Press), is one of the few open critics of the establishment of altered standards of care for disasters. He says the idea “has both monetary and regulatory attractiveness” to governments and companies because it relieves them of having to strive to provide better care. “The problem with lowering the standard of care is where do you stop? How low do you go? If you don’t want to put any more resources in disaster response, you keep lowering the standard.” 

Federal officials disagree. “Our goal is always to provide the highest standard of care under the circumstances,” said RADM Ann Knebel, deputy director of preparedness and planning at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services. “If you don’t plan, then you are less likely to be able to reuse, reallocate and maximize the resources at your disposal, because you have people who’ve never thought about how they’d respond to those circumstances.”

Note: Sheri Fink is a reporter for the ProPublica news service, which first published this article.

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Conclusion

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Maintenance of Medical Board Certification

Status Growing in Importance – or Sham

Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

And Staff Reporters

dr-david-marcinko11Increasingly, efforts to boost quality and gain better value from the world’s most costly healthcare system are including attention to Maintenance of Board Certification [BOBC], a little-understood but rigorous process by which physicians maintain board certification status and then keep it.  

Hillary-Care Redeux

Back in the day, circa late 1970s – early 1980s, medical board certification was indeed a rigorous process; and still is to a very large extent. For example, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in laying out the quality portion of her three-part healthcare reform plan last year, specifically touted these programs as a key step in enhancing quality. From the presidential campaign trail to hospital and health plan board rooms, Board Certification and the Maintenance of Board Certification is a growing force in the industry.

But, is maintaining recertification status another matter of true quality import?

Major Health Plans On-Board

Several of the nation’s biggest health plans—including Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and national and regional Blue Cross and Blue Shield organizations—are embracing Maintenance of Certification as part of their recognition and reward programs. Physicians who do not participate are not highlighted in plan directories and miss out on higher plan reimbursements.

Yet, why do we have “red flag” issues, “never-events” policies and/or the rise of “checklist-medicine” for risk reduction if these continuing education programs are so effective?

Allow me to cite the raging over-treatment epidemic, especially in specialties like arthroscopic orthopedics, radiology imaging [CT and MRI scans] and invasive cardiology, etc. Not to mention recent, and not so recent, Institute of Medicine [IOM] quality chasm reports for in-hospital patient deaths, complications and infections, etc.   

Assessment

Of course, savvy hospital administrators and physician executives, of all stripes, are examining ways to use elements of board certification maintenance to respond to the Joint Commission’s new requirements for physician credentialing and privileging. Furthermore, the National Quality Forum [NQF] and the AQA quality alliance will be considering Maintenance of Certification for quality measurement endorsement.

Source: Cary Sennett and Christine Cassel, Modern Healthcare

Joint Commission Relevance in Modernity

But, is the Joint Commission itself even as relevant today, as in the past? Or – is its [political, quality and economic] status, might and swagger being reduced in favor of modern new-wave insights from health 2.0 collaboration activities and emerging formal organizations like DNV Healthcare Inc., a division of the Norwegian company.

As subscribers and Medical Executive-Post readers are aware, Det Norske Veritas [DNV] has recently been charged with immediately determining if hospitals are in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation [COP]. The company’s authority to accredit hospitals runs through September 26, 2012. DNV joins the American Osteopathic Association [AOA] as the only other national hospital accrediting agency approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servicers [CMS].

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Is medical board certification and maintenance status of real value – or just fluff – much like the continuing education and licensure requirements of insurance agents, stock-brokers and financial advisors, etc? Is it less for medical education – and more for liability risk reduction – or PR – you decide? 

Disclosure: I am a reformed insurance agent, stock-broker, board certified quality review physician and Certified Financial Planner®.

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Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

America’s Safest Hospitals

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[Behind the Numbers]

[By Staff Reporters]56382989

Did you know that at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, it only takes 90 seconds to save a life? While all hospitals keep staff on-call for emergencies, Missouri Baptist has implemented a rapid response program through which anyone, even family members, can call a team of clinicians to the bedside of a distressed patient within 90 seconds.

An Idea from Down-Under

As seen in Forbes, January 27, 2009, Missouri Baptist imported the idea from Australia, with an overall emphasis on safety that is evident not only in its innovative programs, but also in its numbers.

The Internal Data

According to reported internal data, only 48% of patients die as would be expected given their diagnoses. With outcomes like these, it’s no surprise that Missouri Baptist was designated by HealthGrades, a private hospital rating company in Golden, Colo., as one of the safest in the country. In its seventh annual study of “quality and clinical excellence”, known as Behind the Numbers, HealthGrades identified 270 hospitals out of 5,000 that collectively had a 28% lower mortality rate and 8% lower complication rate than the national average. The list reflects the top 5% of hospitals nationwide.

About HealthGrades

The HealthGrades [NASDAQ: HGRD] site promotes the firm as a leading healthcare ratings organization, providing ranking and profiles of hospitals, nursing homes and physicians to consumers, corporations, health plans and other hospitals. Millions of consumers and hundreds of the nation’s largest employers, health plans and hospitals rely on HealthGrades’ independent ratings, consulting and products to make healthcare decisions based on the quality of care. Founded in 1999, the firm has over 160 employees www.HealthGrades.com

Assessment

Now, what ever happened to governmental reporting, the Joint Commission, etc? Of course, after the IOM Report on Crossing the Quality Chasm in 2001, this type of service may be more important than ever.

Link: quality-chasm3

Conclusion

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Top 20 IOM Health Indicators

Medical Quality Improvement Suggestions

Staff Reporters

caduceus

A new report from the Institute of Medicine [IOM recommends 20 specific health indicators that can be used to help policy-makers, the media and the public measure Americans’ overall health and well-being and track the nation’s progress in improving public health and care systems.

Link: AHA News Now: http://www.rwjf.org/qualityequality/digest.jsp?id=9220

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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Report on Hospital Risks

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An IOM Review for Us All

[By Staff Reporters]

Hospitals manufacture miracles by the millions. But, they can also be hazardous to your health.

IOM Report

According to the Institute of Medicine [IOM], a non-profit organization chartered by the US National Academy of Sciences, at least 1.5 million Americans fall prey to hospital error every year.

And, these mistakes aren’t exactly minor either; as between 40,000 and 100,000 people die every year because of shoddy handiwork, including surgical mishaps and drug mix-ups.

Drug Problems

One big problem is that hospital patients may get the wrong drug one time out of five times [20%], according to a study by Auburn University. The death toll from these mistakes is at least as bad as that from car accidents or breast cancer, and may be as bad as that from strokes.

Infections

Another 100,000 people die because of infections from hospital-bred [nosocomial] bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics doctors use to kill them off, according to the Center for Disease Control [CDC]. Some of those might be prevented by more hand washing or other precautions.

Assessment

Of course, medical provides, health economists, advisors, administrators and Executive-Post subscribers are familiar with these mistakes; but the public may not be – until now!

And so, this is your chance to learn what the public is reading about this vital issue from Forbes.  

Link: http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100214300&gt1=31036#

You may be surprised, and dismayed!

***

telehealth

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Conclusion

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Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners(TM)* 8

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