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No Progress In Improving Outpatient Care

A recent study has determined that the quality of outpatient care in the United States has generally not improved over the past 10 years. A growing awareness of the frequency of medical mistakes has led to numerous programs designed to improve patient safety and outcomes. These efforts have not produced appreciable results, according to survey data analyzed by the study's authors. The quality of American medical treatment is not getting better.

Two Ways Medical Care Falls Short

A good patient outcome involves getting the right care to a patient at the right time. Problems occur when patients receive the wrong care, or even harmful care, and when they do not receive the care they need. After a survey of thousands of patients, doctors, pharmacists and hospitals, it became clear that the second type of problem is being addressed while the first has gotten worse.

Patients are more likely to receive the proper medication or treatment for many conditions than they were 10 years ago. In a related note, patient satisfaction has also risen in that time period. More than three-quarters of patients gave high ratings for the care they received. That was a 5 percent increase from the beginning of the study. Patient ratings also improved for communication with their doctors and for having access to the care they needed.

Unfortunately, the improvements were offset by an increase in patients receiving improper medical care. These situations involved patients receiving the wrong medication or medication that is ineffective in treating their specific condition. One example is the prescription of antibiotics for the flu. It could be argued that, over the past decade, doctors became willing to provide more care regardless of whether that care was necessary or helpful.

Getting The Proper Care

The results of the survey suggest that patient outcomes may not be driving changes in medical care. For ten years, the quality of care has stagnated. Only the quantity of care has increased. Patients need to understand that doctors are not infallible. Not only do mistakes happen, they are relatively common. If you suspect that a medical mistake has caused you harm, you might very well be right.

Source: Fox News, "No consistent gains in quality of US outpatient care," by Reuters, 18 October 2016 

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