In healthcare, death goes by another name – mortality. It’s as if our industry believes using another term lessens the permanent and devastating loss people feel over the death of a loved one. For these people, questions of “how” and “why” will linger for years, and for some, not a day will pass without thoughts of “what might have been” or “if only…”
As to the “how,” for over a quarter of a million families each year, the answer is excruciating: medical error. That’s the heartbreaking finding by Johns Hopkins researchers, published last week in the British Medical Journal, and covered by nearly every major news outlet, including US News and World Report, Washington Post, and NPR.
Martin Makary and Michael Daniel estimated that 251,454 deaths can be attributed to medical errors, making it our nation’s THIRD leading cause of death, just behind heart disease and cancer. Otherwise stated:
Medical error is responsible for nearly 700 deaths per day, 10% of all deaths, or the equivalent of one to two Boeing 747s full of people crashing each day.
Whatever measure allows you to grasp the enormity of this human catastrophe, realize that the situation has been largely the same for decades. Makary and Daniel’s analysis underscores that point: studies of reports and data between 1999 and 2013 showed little has changed in the intervening 15 years. Our team’s experience conducting large-scale studies over the same time frame also confirms those findings.
Zero Tolerance for Medical Errors
So what now? If highly regarded, multi-billion dollar hospital systems and devoted, credentialed medical professionals can’t seem to dial back the needless loss of life, what change can individuals like you and I hope to make?
My answer to you is: A LOT. I started MPIRICA because I believe together, you and I can and will do what the industry has been unable to accomplish on its own – drive quality transparency to reduce unnecessary death and suffering to the absolute minimum.
It starts with reducing our own tolerance of the situation. Consider this question:
What’s an acceptable number of deaths from medical errors… for your family?
I doubt you took more than a nanosecond to answer ”ZERO,” which is the whole point. Just because you or a loved one, or your neighbor or co-worker or employee, is not lying in a hospital bed at this very minute, does not mean you can excuse this dire state of our healthcare. As with car accidents, or plane crashes, zero tolerance is the only appropriate response to the crisis we all face in healthcare.
Next, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our healthcare choices and our recommendations to those who depend on us.
When it comes to surgery, research shows poor performers pose a serious danger. If you happen to choose among these performers (and they are everywhere), you increase the chances of suffering a negative outcome by three to five times over a top performer. For heart bypass, a poor choice means you face a 50% chance of a serious complication, readmission or death. That’s right – choose a poor heart surgeon or hospital and you may as well flip a coin to determine if you’ll come out OK.
Path to a Better Future
For generations, we’ve had no way around taking extraordinary and unnecessary risks in healthcare and, as a result, for over a quarter of a million of us each year, the results have been both tragic and unjustified. But in just two years since a federal court lifted a 30 year prohibition on the public release of physician-level performance statistics, we are seeing medical quality scientists come out with clear indicators on avoiding the worst risks.
I started MPIRICA to protect me, my family, friends and colleagues with the most rigorous medical quality science available, and I feel strongly that you too should have this peace of mind. The MPIRICA Quality Score and your zero tolerance for medical errors, will save hundreds of thousands of lost lives. That’s the mission of every one of us MPIRICANs, and we welcome you to join our cause.