Nearly 4,000 tests for heart disease performed over the last three years at Harlem Hospital Center — more than half of all such tests performed — were never read by doctors charged with making a diagnosis, hospital officials acknowledged Tuesday. The echocardiogram tests, a type of ultrasound used to evaluate heart muscle and valve functions, were ordered by doctors at the hospital. The tests were stored on a computer and basically forgotten, officials said. 200 of the patients whose echocardiograms went unread have since died and investigators are trying to determine if these deaths were avoidable had the tests been properly handled. An investigation has found six patients who might have been deprived of necessary medical treatment because the results of their heart tests were not read by doctors.
Ted Eytan, at Kaiser Permanente, has been doing really groundbreaking work arguing that test results should be released to the patients at the same time they are released to the doctors. If this were the case, maybe these kinds of life-threatening “slip-ups” wouldn’t occur or would occur much less.
But then again, if patients were the center of healthcare, not insurance companies and doctors, these slip-ups wouldn’t occur. Travelers are the center, the true customers, of the airline industry. We’ve demanded safety.
If patients demanded safety in the healthcare system, we wouldn’t have 100,000 people a year dying from medical errors, the equivalent of a jet full of 275 people crashing every day.