Medical Error - The third leading cause of death in the US

This past weekend I started to review my accomplishments for the year.  Flipping through my notes I came across a workflow that was drawn on one of the pages.

This workflow is from the early days at Survivor Healthcare ("early days" being last February!).

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This clinical workflow is simple to depict, and would seem simple to follow. However, medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US - a number equal to two jumbo jets crashing everyday with no survivors.

Medical errors can be organized by two types:

  • Error by Omission - Not doing something that should have been done.
  • Error by Commission - Doing something that should not have been done.

Medical error, by omission and/or commission, can result in three related patient healthcare outcomes:

  • Incorrect Diagnosis
  • Delay in Diagnosis
  • Incorrect Treatment

A medical error, or a series of cascading medical errors, can occur at any or all phases of the clinical workflow.

Hospitals, and the rest of the industrialized medical system, have traditionally been paid by the procedure, not on the outcome.  As such, there has been a lack of incentives to reduce medical errors. In point of fact, studies have shown that hospitals and health care systems benefit from additional revenue as a result of medical errors - since medical errors generally require more billable procedures.  

Fortunately for the health care consumer, insurance companies started getting wise to this perverse incentive. The result has been a series of policies that reward providers for improved outcomes; motivated by a potential to push down the health care cost curve.

With that said, medical errors remain a tremendous challenge for health care consumers (i.e. patients, caregivers, and family members), as well as for providers and payors.

Supporting oncologists, primary care providers, cancer patients, cancer survivors, and family members, our job at Survivor Healthcare is fill the gap to prevent, mitigate, and reverse the number of medical errors.