Endangered Patients: WA Consumer Forum Explores Ending Medical Harm

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Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project and Washington Advocates for Patient Safety (WAPS) teamed up to host a patient safety forum at the Seattle Public Library to explore ideas for ending patient harm and what consumers can do to protect themselves from medical errors, hospital infections and failed hip and knee implants. About thirty-five people heard enlightening presentations by WA advocates that are leading the way on patient safety progress in WA state. You can access the presentations here.

Members of WAPS presented on their work to improve transparency and accountability in the health care system so that hospitals can avoid more needless injuries and preventable deaths. Like many of the patient safety advocates we work with, WAPS members have been personally impacted by medical harm which led them to advocate for patient safety. Yanling Yu, who co-founded WAPS, shared painful details of her father’s death after he was given a medication containing sulfa, despite him wearing two sulfa allergy bands. She reminded the audience that, “Behind the statistics of each medical harm, there was a beautiful, precious human life and their family.” Dwight Schrag played a video presentation of his wife Mary who received a recalled metal-on-metal hip that left a devastating impact on their lives. Dwight traveled to DC last year to attend a FDA panel on the safety of metal-on-metal hips which have an unusually high failure rate, based on data from Australia, England, and Wales where devices are tracked through national registries. Karie Fugate shared her son Mark’s story, who died from preventable medical harm at age 30, after suffering hospital infections including MRSA, bedsores and improper use of antibiotics.

Yanling presenting WAPS Mark Turnage

Visit WAPS’ website to join their important work and become a voice for WA patients.

Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project has worked with Yanling and WAPS for several years, more recently to protect the WA hospital infection reporting law that retains reporting of infections associated with hip and knee replacements and cardiac surgeries. With more younger people undergoing hip and knee replacement surgeries, patients will still be able to see their local hospitals’ infection rates for these procedures, which can help them make informed decisions about where to receive care.

Our campaign staff presented on our new campaign to get the top six hip and knee implant makers to provide 20-year warranties on their products. When implants turn out be defective, the cost for additional surgery and a replacement device is now largely paid by patients or their insurance companies, including Medicare. Revision surgery costs more, results in longer hospital stays and can often lead to additional surgeries. Patients like Mary Schrag, who receive hip implants, should be guaranteed a new hip at no cost if their current one fails or is recalled. The pain and suffering has emotional and financial costs for patients and their family members. Patients with implants deserve peace of mind in the form of a warranty.

Later that afternoon, we heard from Dr. Robert Mecklenburg with Robert Bree Collaborative, a project of the WA-based Foundation for Health Care Quality. The Collaborative is in the process of creating a warranty for hip and knee replacements. By bundling packages of care, they can offer a warranty for specific things that go wrong and provide additional care at no cost.

David Ansley with Consumer Reports presented on the Choosing Wisely campaign and how it’s helping to change the culture of overused medical care. Consumer Reports distributes free evidence-based health information to consumers to help them make smarter health care choices and avoid medical treatments that may be unnecessary and costly. Go to Consumer Health Choices to get the free patient brochures. Follow David on Twitter to learn more about this important campaign.

We enjoyed our time in Seattle and the great connections we made. Special thanks to WAPS for co-organizing this fruitful forum and to our guest speakers.