Predictions Of How Consumers Will Use Faster Internet Connections In the Future
Massachusetts Town Tells Comcast Its Services Are Not Wanted

Ebola And Leading Death Causes HIghlight Bigger Issues Facing the USA

The Ebola virus disease has been in the news. And, everyone seems worried. We all may be worried about the wrong stuff. ProPublica reported in September 2013:

"... a study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says. That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second."

I'll bet you didn't know that so many people die every year from medical errors. Below is the ranked list of death causes in 2011 in the U.S.A. published by the Center For Disease Control (CDC):

  1. Heart disease: 596,577
  2. Cancer: 576,691
  3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943
  4. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932
  5. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438
  6. Alzheimer's disease: 84,974
  7. Diabetes: 73,831
  8. Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518

440,000 deaths per year from medical errors easily captures the number 3 spot. As bad as this is, sadly there is more.

On Friday October 17, professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich posted on his Facebook page (link added):

"The failures at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital reflect a much bigger problem. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections now affect one in 25 patients, causing 99,000 deaths each year. That’s 1 out of 4 deaths in hospitals -- more deaths than caused by many of the conditions that lead patients to enter hospitals in the first place..."

Hence, a more accurate ranked list of leading causes of death would include both medical errors and hospital-acquired infections:

  1. Heart disease: 596,577
  2. Cancer: 576,691
  3. Medical errors: 440,000
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943
  5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932
  6. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438
  7. Hospital-acquired infections: 99,000
  8. Alzheimer's disease: 84,974
  9. Diabetes: 73,831
  10. Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826
  11. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591
  12. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518

With existing death causes like these, the calls by politicians to ban flights from West Africa seem to miss the point. So much for American exceptionalism. Mr. Reich explored the problem further:

"... hospital administrators don’t have much incentive to improve. Most people have no idea of the infection rate at any given hospital, and don’t ask their doctors. If a hospital’s infection rate goes down the hospital doesn’t get more patients, and if it goes up the hospital doesn’t get fewer. (In fact, it might even make money because it can then increase its billing.) Bottom line: The CDC should require hospitals to report their infection rates into a common database that you have access to, and you should consult it before choosing a hospital for yourself or a loved one."

Now, that proposal makes sense. It allows consumers to make informed decisions about where to seek health care.

What are your opinions of the leading causes of death? Is the country focused on the right problem? Have you asked your physician about hospital infection rates?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.