When doctors and patients communicate well, research shows that patients are more likely to follow treatments, recover more quickly and are less likely to be the victims of medical errors. But with an average office visit of just 18 minutes and an increasingly complex variety of diagnostic and therapeutic options, good communication may be modern medicine’s final frontier. In this podcast, sponsored by ConnectiCare, Dr. Juan Estrada, medical director of Sanitas Medical Centers and Lisa Freeman, director of the Conn. Center for Patient Safety, provide tips on how to communicate with your doctor. A recent patient survey by ConnectiCare found that patients generally rated communication with their doctors highly, but there were concerning gaps.
Many consumers who obtain insurance through Connecticut’s health care exchange don’t understand the plans they buy—and can struggle to access care as a result, according to a new report. Insurance plans typically use complicated language that is difficult to understand, according to the Health Disparities Institute, UConn Health. As a result, some patients have trouble accessing care, experience delays in care, encounter administrative hassles and face other hurdles, the study found. The institute conducted a statewide poll last year among 516 adults who enrolled in qualified health plans through Access Health CT (AHCT), the state health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act. Many struggled to understand basic insurance terms like “premium,” “deductible” and “co-pay.”
More needs to be done to educate all health insurance consumers, regardless of where they buy their policies, said Lisa Freeman, executive director of the nonprofit Connecticut Center for Patient Safety.
Nearly half of Connecticut hospitals – 14 out of 31 – will lose a portion of their Medicare payments in 2017 as a penalty for having too many patients who acquired preventable infections and injuries while hospitalized. The hospitals are among 769 nationwide that will lose one percent of their Medicare reimbursements this year as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program. The CMS program, now in its third year, penalizes the lowest-performing hospitals where a relatively high number of patients got infections from hysterectomies, colon surgeries, urinary tract catheters and central line tubes. It also takes into account patients who suffered from blood clots, bed sores or falls while hospitalized. New this year, CMS also factored in the incidents where antibiotic-resistant bacteria – namely, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C.
Connecticut hospitals reported increases in patient deaths or serious injuries due to falls and medication errors in 2015 compared to 2014, but an overall drop in “adverse events,” according to a new state report. The report, by the Department of Public Health (DPH), shows that the total number of medical errors dipped by 3 percent – from 472 in 2014, to 456 in 2015. There were 90 instances when patients died or were seriously injured in falls, up from 78 in 2014. Seven falls that resulted in injury or death were reported at Yale New Haven Hospital, St. Vincent’s Medical Center and UConn’s John Dempsey Hospital.
Health care organizations’ information technologies and workflows often don’t support each other, according to a patient care-focused nonprofit that flagged the problem as one of the top safety issues facing the industry. The ECRI Institute, which recently released its third annual ranking of the Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for Healthcare Organizations, reported that patient identification errors and inadequate management of behavioral health issues in non-behavioral health settings were its No. 2 and No. 3 issues for health care organizations. When a health IT system is introduced, health care organizations should tailor it to their workflow, and vice versa, according to ECRI, which is based in Pennsylvania.
State health inspectors visiting Stamford Hospital in late 2012 turned up several infection-control violations, including the improper drying and storage of endoscopes, instruments used to look inside the body. An inspection of Hartford Hospital in 2012 found an operating room with “dust and darkened debris” on top of pumps attached to IV poles, a container of syringes “overflowing” a protective cover, and brownish stains on the floor and underside of the operating table. These kinds of lapses, while not directly tied to patient infections, have contributed to Connecticut’s poor ratings on some federal measures of hospital-acquired infections. Newly released data show that more than 50 percent of the state’s hospitals had rates for at least one type of hospital-acquired infection that were worse than federal benchmarks, in late 2012 and 2013. No other state had a higher percentage of its hospitals exceeding the infection standards set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most states had fewer than 20 percent, according to the data, compiled by Kaiser Health News.
At Bridgeport Hospital, “talking bed rails” programmed to speak to patients in the geriatric psychiatric unit are helping to reduce the number of alarms that sound when a patient at risk for falling tries to get out of bed. At the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, health care professionals are adopting techniques from aviation safety experts to reduce the chances of a catastrophic event happening before a clinical alarm goes off. These are among the many ways Connecticut hospitals are tackling a phenomenon known industry-wide as alarm fatigue. Health care experts worry that medical devices with built-in alarms – such as heart monitors, infusion pumps and ventilators – designed to alert caregivers that patients are in danger could potentially put patients at risk because caregivers are desensitized by the sheer number of alerts and false alarms and fail to respond in a timely fashion. Research shows alarms in intensive care units are accurate less than 10 percent of the time, and 90 percent are false alarms.
Solutions for combating alarm fatigue range from alarm integration technology that sends alerts to a caregiver’s telephone to the development of a new generation of “smart alarms,” including ones designed to monitor multiple vital signs.