Medical Errors Report #27

A Four-Year Solution Implementation Study

Wasting of Government Money on Useless Research Projects Adds to the Failure of Fixing Medical Errors

Since 1999, after IOM reported on the thousands of patients dying annually from medical errors, close to $300 million in government money was allocated for research projects to find solutions. Unfortunately, the money was given to people uninformed about the problems within hospitals that cause medical errors. Instead of this research money being spent in local hospitals by collecting information from those who work directly with patients, the grant money was given to celebrity researchers ignorant of the leading causes of medical errors. Most of the grant monies were therefore wasted.  Based on the 2002 report of Dr. Gegg Meyer of AHRQ, a government center for quality improvement and patient safety, $5.3 million was being spent on a study using computers and information systems to prevent medical errors. Why are we using government money to find what has already been shown by other research projects? Medical journal are filled with articles about the successful utilization of computerized systems to reduce medical errors. Why do we need to spend $5.3 million researching a well-defined fact? The report states  $5.3 million would be spent to understand the impact of working conditions on patient safety. Evidently these people do not work in hospitals. All it takes is a day to question hospital workers about these facts without spending millions of dollars on already established facts. Our study and many others already proved beyond a shred of doubt that employees working under stressful conditions resulting from staff shortage are more likely to make errors. Developing innovative research approaches to improving patient safety would cost $8.0 million while disseminating research results would cost $2.4 million. Nice way to waste money!

 Instead of wasting government money, why don’t we put it into local hospitals working hard to improve quality, that lack the funds to support effective intervention? Perhaps such a hospital needs a barcode system for patient identification, costing only $200,000 depending on the size of the hospital. If 100 hospitals are selected across the nation, two from each state, such a barcode system would cost a total of $20 million and would be money well spent as opposed to the $80 million granted annually for research that most of which is being wasted. Computerized barcode for patient identification systems have been known to reduce patient identification errors since 1999. If some of the grant money had been spent on computerized barcode systems, 400 hospitals across the nation would have benefited by now. But, the research money is being wasted because the money was given to those who distributed it to their friends for doing worthless research projects. So far over $500 million grant money has gone for useless research projects instead of for fixing medical errors.

 As long as we are unwilling to confront the real problems, we will never solve the problems of medical errors. Solutions to medical errors will not come from pen-pushers sitting in offices and shuffling papers, but from those who work on the process-line of patient care. These are the ones currently being ignored. When we ask the wrong questions from the wrong people, we get the wrong answers, which is why patients are still dying due to medical errors.