WSJ: How to Stop Hospitals from Killing Us

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal had a powerful article written from a physician’s view on the problems with hospital care in today’s America.

The piece, titled “How to Stop Hospitals from Killing Us” has a number of folks buzzing this morning.  It should be required reading for policy makers of any breed.

I’m in Spokane to speak at the Northwest Medical Informatics Symposium, and this is the story CEOs here are talking about.  Here’s one snippet from the story.

In 1989, the first year that New York’s hospitals were required to report heart-surgery death rates, the death rate by hospital ranged from 1% to 18%—a huge gap. Consumers were finally armed with useful data. They could ask: “Why have a coronary artery bypass graft operation at a place where you have a 1-in-6 chance of dying compared with a hospital with a 1-in-100 chance of dying?”

Instantly, New York heart hospitals with high mortality rates scrambled to improve; death rates declined by 83% in six years. Management at these hospitals finally asked staff what they had to do to make care safer. At some hospitals, the surgeons said they needed anesthesiologists who specialized in heart surgery; at others, nurse practitioners were brought in. At one hospital, the staff reported that a particular surgeon simply wasn’t fit to be operating. His mortality rate was so high that it was skewing the hospital’s average. Administrators ordered him to stop doing heart surgery. Goodbye, Dr. Hodad.