Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers know that our hospitals are a long way from the efficient, science-driven facilities that most people imagine them to be. The same institutional problems that afflict every workplace in America can be found in hospitals: institutional lethargy, problem employees and simple human error abound. As a consequence, people are needlessly injured every day in American hospitals, sometimes as a result of something as simple as leaving a catheter in too long. Medicare recently launched a quality improvement program designed to calculate the rate at which hospitals cause avoidable injuries to their patients and to penalize the worst performing hospitals in the country. According to preliminary reports, St. Vincent Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania had the worst possible score and was ranked in the bottom 25% of the nation’s hospitals. No other local hospitals were ranked among the bottom 25%.
St. Vincent replied that the score was only preliminary and based on data compiled between 2011 and June 2013. The final scores will be based on data that include more recent time periods. St. Vincent says that they’ve improved their procedures and believe that more recent statistics will elevate them out of the pool of hospitals who will be punished.
There is reason to be skeptical of the data. Metrics are not always perfect. Medicare’s metrics seem to unfairly target urban hospitals and teaching hospitals. And hospitals that lack institutional integrity can use the rules to “game” the system. Hospitals that are more vigilant in diagnosing problems look worse in Medicare’s analysis than do hospitals that ignore problems, for example. “If you don’t look for the clot, you’re never going to find it,” said one health care professional.
Still, St. Vincent’s own words condemn its institutional culture. St. Vincent says it has recently implemented policies and procedures that have materially improved its statistics. The problem, of course, is that none of the policies and procedures implemented by St. Vincent are new in health care. On the contrary, these policies and procedures are well-known and have been around for a long time. The question, then, is why didn’t St. Vincent implement those policies and procedures before? Why did they wait until it appeared that their failure to implement safety measures was going to cost them money?
Hopefully, the leadership at St. Vincent is asking itself these same questions in an effort not to merely address the present Medicare study but to get at the root of the cultural deficiencies that allowed St. Vincent to ignore the injuries they were causing until recently.
If St. Vincent does conduct an honest and vigorous critique of itself then perhaps it can right the ship in more ways than one. But from a larger perspective, St. Vincent’s response to Medicare’s penalty system illustrates an important principle for critics of Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice civil justice system. Hospitals and health care providers will, with perfect certainty, sometimes ignore simple and well-known safety measures unless or until there is a financial penalty associated with their failure.
Working With the Erie Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. are Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers with a strong commitment to making things right for our clients. We get to know each one of our clients, and their families, and we limit the number of cases that we take in order to give each client the personal attention that he or she deserves.
If you’d like more information, call the Erie medical malpractice attorneys at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. toll free at 814-273-2010 or locally at 814-273-2010 for a free consultation.