A fellow named Dan Walter has a blog that he is working on turning into a book entitled Adventures in Cardiology that is all about the awful experience his wife had during a cardiac procedure at Johns Hopkins. I don’t know Dan or his wife, and for that matter I don’t know any of the people involved in the story. As a matter of fact, I came across the blog when Mr. Walter left a comment on one of my entries at the Huffington Post. Curious, I checked out the link he provided, and found a very well-written account of a bad encounter with the health care system.
You’ll notice that my focus is on the health care system rather than any of the providers or even the institution of Johns Hopkins. Mr. Walter shares my view that the focus ought not be on the providers, but he definitely takes issue with Hopkins. In fact, he’s caught up in all sorts of legal matters with them as we speak–and the Hopkins lawyers are, understandably, none too pleased with his blog. The thing is, though, that this type of adverse outcome happens every day at hospitals all across the country. Because Johns Hopkins is considered one of the best hospitals in the nation, it is also an easy target when it fails, in much the same way that staunch conservatives who are so outspoken about family values and the like fall harder when they are caught up in a sex scandal. I suppose it’s more shocking. But if the focus is on the patient–as I believe it should be–then we ought only to care that something bad happened to them and be less concerned about where it happened. A tragedy at a community hospital in rural Montana demands just as much of our attention as a botched procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wrighto-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0805091742&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrIn closing, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the story Mr. Walter presents, though I also have no reason to doubt his account. But it really doesn’t matter, because stories like his do indeed happen all the time. These are the reasons why we need more comparative effectiveness research and more importantly why we need simple quality improvements like those proposed in Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto.