Hospitals Have a Lot to Learn - from One Another
Powers, Mike, Human Ecology Forum
Hospital quality in the United States is surprisingly inconsistent. New efforts to facilitate the sharing of information on clinical and administrative procedures show promise in making them better-and safer.
We've all heard the horror stories: A man goes into the hospital to have a leg amputated and wakes up in the recovery room with the wrong limb removed; a woman being treated for breast cancer is given a five-fold dose of a chemotherapy drug and suffers fatal heart damage; a child is sent home from the emergency room diagnosed with a virus only to return in an ambulance several hours later with a burst appendix.
"The cracks in the system can be very large," says Andrea Kabcenell, a senior research associate in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and director of Cornell's Program for Improving the Quality of Hospital Care. "They look even bigger from the patient's point of view."
The quality of hospital care in the United States varies tremendously. And in some hospitals it's getting worse. Kabcenell says that part of the problem is managed care. "Patient care decisions are being driven more than ever by economic forces, and although the goal is to reduce costs without affecting quality of care, that's not always what happens."
But perhaps one of the most unnerving reasons for the disparity in hospital quality - and one that few health care consumers are aware of - is the lack of communication between hospitals. Driven by the fear of losing customers, hospitals have traditionally operated in virtual isolation, jealously guarding information and data from one another to remain as competitive as possible.
"Even sister hospitals within the same system haven't shared information very well," says Kabcenell. "They're just not used to talking to each other."
This secretive nature has resulted in wide …
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Publication information: Article title: Hospitals Have a Lot to Learn - from One Another. Contributors: Powers, Mike - Author. Journal title: Human Ecology Forum. Volume: 25. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 1997. Page number: 4+. © 1994 Cornell University, Human Ecology. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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