Medical Errors are 3rd Leading Cause of Death: What Does This Mean? What Can You Do?


***Medical Errors Are 3rd Leading Cause of Death Research

I have many great and highly respected friends who are medical doctors, nursers, and other health professionals who sincerely care for the patients whom they treat. Thus, I don’t believe that all medical professionals are just walking around carelessly killing their patients. That said, we all know there are plenty of medical providers who are arrogant, rushed, careless, don’t listen, and don’t seem to care too much about patients health. I say all of this and I haven’t even told you where the information stating that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death is coming from. Well, I wanted to make sure that it is clear that the problem is much larger than some medical providers being careless, and that there are plenty of physicians who I do trust.
We need to look at what’s really going on here! 
The research stating that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death comes out of Johns Hopkins. These patient safety experts conclude that over 250,000 death per year are due to medical error in the United States. Medical error is only behind heart disease and cancer as leading killers.
These researches state that the following are reasons why medical errors, resulting in death, occur:
  • systemic problems
  • poorly coordinated care
  • fragmented insurance networks
  • absence or underuse of safety nets and other protocols
  • unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns that lack accountability
They go on to say that most medical errors aren’t “due to inherently bad doctors.”
So, what does this all mean?
  1.  The healthcare SYSTEM is literally killing people. Many of the deaths are due to systemic problems. Medical providers are being set up to fail to provide adequate services to their patients.
  2. Insurance companies are nothing short of damaging. Insurance companies dictate what can and cannot happen with patients. They have incredible power that is used incorrectly and dangerously. In fact,  the Johns Hopkins researchers indicate the fragmented insurance networks are actually contributing to ending peoples lives.
  3. Medical providers are rushed. They are often times expected to have appointments less than 10-15 minutes, which actually means 1-5 minutes of face-to-face time with a licensed medical provider.
  4. We should stop referring to the current medical model as “Health Care.” It is crisis care. I actually learned this concept from a couple different medical doctors and medical professionals. Medical providers are trained very very well in crisis care. However, they are not appropriately trained in true health care. Furthermore, I am impressed by how many medical docs recognize that in all of their vigorous training they didn’t really learn about preventative health care, and now they are furthering their practices and education to provide true health care.
  5. The research doesn’t take in to account the errors that are related to medical providers not listening to their patients. I see it all of the time where my clients, and others, have truly studied things out and consulted with knowledgeable people but their medical provider is too prideful to listen.
What can you do?
  1. Recognize that you and your body are the best doctors. I am not saying that you should never trust a medical provider. Again, I know many incredible medical providers. Look at your medical appointment as a collaborative consultation. Rarely should you be told what to do without any input on your end. This should be a collaborative process ending in an agreed upon action plan. The main ingredients are assuring you are heard by being assertive and do your homework beforehand. I am not stating we should act like our docs are stupid and question their every move.  I am simply saying make this a team effort! Be heard!
  2. Don’t look to a medical provider or other health professional ( I am stating this as a health professional) for the core of your health care. Medical, psychological, and other health professionals are nothing more than supplementary. This means that true health care starts with YOU! Take back control of your Sleep, Movement, and Nutrition. It is not a good idea to go chucking yourself full of pills without first taking care of the fundamentals. Sure, I say that understanding that sometimes (in rare cases) it is vital to take medication before you get your fundamentals under control- that is for you and your medical provider to discuss.
  3. Find a medical provider that is practicing in an environment where they can spend time with you and actually listen. Look for doctors who don’t double book all the time and who have longer appt slots. Ask the receptionists, and others, how long the appt slots are and how much time you’ll have with your medical provider.
  4. Don’t do something just because a medical professional said to do it. That might sound rebellious. Actually, it’s only wise. Any good medical provider colleague I have will tell you that their patients often times have the answers and know a lot. Do your research and get other opinions if needs be.
In summary, it is imperative that we all realize the role medical providers should play in our lives. They are NOT supposed to be there to run our lives. The good medical/health professionals fully understand that we are here to EMPOWER you! Don’t stop trusting in your medical doctor; instead, become informed and collaborate. Maybe consider other options outside of insurance. I believe health insurance is a fraud and equivalent to a ponzi scheme. Thus, I use a health co-op for my family and focus on taking control of our health in the most effective preventative manner. You are worth the investment of time and money it requires to take care of yourself. Focus on the 3 fundamentals of Sleep, Movement, and Nutrition. These fundamentals will not heal everything (e.g. cancer) but it can prevent and heal the majority of current health issues.
Side notes about the process of reviewing this article: 
We spend millions and millions of dollars every year on insignificant, fudged, and crummy research. Anytime I have taught research to graduate students I make sure it is clear that the majority of research we all read is not be to taken as “proving” anything. In fact, research should never be considered to prove anything. All research can do is suggest, indicate, or something of the liking. Furthermore, research is often times not even describing/studying what they say they are. Due to extraneous variable, confounding variables, and poorly operationally defined terms, the results should always be viewed with heavy criticism. For example, in this research article it doesn’t really define “medical errors.” So, what are we really even looking at? Bottom line: one should always read any research with very objective lenses. In addition, most research is funded by groups of special interests; therefore, the research is obviously going to be favorable to the funding source. Always know who funded the research!
This article only discusses “medical errors.” Well, the truth is errors in the health profession happen all of the time. We cannot get our errors down to zero in any field. However, we can be open to learning, listening, and implementing the safest practices. As a licensed professional in the field of psychology I get it that I make mistakes. I hope that I can listen to my clients and pay careful attention to the overall process so that mistakes can be reduced. We, in the field of psychology, need to recognized our errors as well and not be so fused to the techniques we are using and forget that our clients have all the answers within.

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