4,000 times a year. That’s how often Johns Hopkins researchers found “never events” happen in U.S. hospitals.
What’s a “never event”? It’s a situation so grave that it should never happen. Like leaving a scalpel inside a patient. Or operating on the wrong limb. Or the wrong person.
4,000 times a year. That’s about 11 times a day… every day, 7 days a week. Almost a third of these incidents result in permanent injury. About 6.6% end in death.
From 1990 to 2010, the Johns Hopkins team estimates 80,000 patients experienced a “never event.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of doctors and other healthcare workers are careful and caring. They genuinely want to make a difference. But, as you’re about to discover, “want” and “do” are sometimes two different things.
Medical Mistakes From Pink Eye to Blood Pressure
A new study in the journal Ophthalmology says doctors routinely fail to treat pink eye properly.
Pink eye – or acute conjunctivitis – comes in three types: viral, bacterial, and allergic. A virus is by far the most common cause. But, in one survey, doctors gave 78% of 300,000 patients with pink eye a prescription for an antibiotic.
As you may already know, antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Or allergic reactions. And in the case of pink eye, antibiotics are rarely needed even for the bacterial form. Most cases will clear up on their own in 7 – 14 days.
So, in this survey, about antibiotics were prescribed incorrectly about 234,000 times. And that’s just one illness.
Chances are your doctor’s staff doesn’t take your blood pressure correctly, either. Do they have you sit on the examination table? That’s a no-no. So is measuring blood pressure in an unsupported arm.
Just having a doctor or nurse in the room can drive up your blood pressure. It’s so common, it has a name. It’s called “the white coat effect.”
With blood pressure linked to your heart risk, getting it right is important. But most medical staff don’t fully follow the American Heart Association guidelines.
So what’s the point here?
You Have to Be Your Own Health Advocate
According to a 2011 article in Scientific American, much of medical practice has weak – or no – scientific backing. And when there are clear clinical guidelines, they’re often not followed fully.
For example, primary care doctors treat lower back pain correctly only about half the time. And only about 20% of what doctors do is backed by clear scientific evidence.
According to the article, surgeons may even argue with their own treatment advice.
Researchers gave written descriptions of a health issue to a group of surgeons. About half recommended surgery. The other half recommended against it. The researchers gave the same doctors the same details two years later. 40% of them switched positions.
Again, I’m not trying to put down doctors here. But medicine is as much art as science. And those who practice it are only human.
That’s why you have to be your own health advocate. If you have a health condition, research it. And research your doctor’s advice. If you have a serious problem, get a second opinion. Or even a third.
Chances are your doctor strives to do their best for you. But your health isn’t something to take chances with.
You can learn a lot about health conditions by checking national organizations’ websites. (American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, etc.) The National Library of Medicine also has reams of free health information at the MedlinePlus website – https://medlineplus.gov.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“Johns Hopkins Malpractice Study: Surgical ‘Never Events’ Occur At Least 4,000 Times per Year,” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Dec 19, 2012.
“Is Your Doctor Prescribing the Wrong Treatment for Pink Eye?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, via Newswise.com. Jun 19, 2017.
“Blood pressure readings often unreliable,” amednews.com. Jun 11, 2007.
Kumar, S. and Nash, D.B., “Health Care Myth Busters: Is There a High Degree of Scientific Certainty in
Modern Medicine?” Scientific American. Mar 25, 2011.
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