Empowering patients against unnecessary care, medical errors proves difficult

Patients have a difficult time overruling their doctors when they believe a procedure is unnecessary or potentially harmful, according to Politico.

Although overtreatment and preventable medical errors account for a huge percentage of deaths every year (a 2013 study found errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.), healthcare providers have fallen behind on both, Leapfrog Group CEO Leah Binder said at a Politico briefing.

"We are not seeing progress the way we should," she said. "Given that we have a problem where safety is one of the leading causes of death in this country, we would expect to see some massive change ... Thirty people are going to die by the time this session is over from preventable errors." Despite the high error rates, Binder said, healthcare providers are slow to respond, partly because lack of transparency makes it hard to tell who pays for deadly errors.

The push for cost transparency is empowering patients, panelists said, but patients, due to health problems, are often in a vulnerable position and have a harder time being assertive with their providers.

Meanwhile, a new mediation program in Oregon aims to give patients and their families options beyond a lawsuit in response to medical errors, according to Oregon Live. The Early Discussion and Resolution Program, approved in a state law last year, allows any patient or immediate family member to file a notice in response to a death or serious injury caused by medical care. The notice initiates a confidential mediation period during which the two sides can seek some sort of settlement or apology, while retaining the option to sue if the process is unsuccessful.

"We are ready for a new approach that benefits both patients and providers," said Bethany Walmsley, executive director of the Oregon Patient Safety Commission.

Oregon is not the only state concerned about reducing medical errors; in late April, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) released a report that found medical errors in the Golden State cause more than 300,000 deaths a year, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Politico article 
- read the Oregon Live article
- check out the program website