MASSDEVICE ON CALL — As many as a third of the people admitted to hospitals in the U.S. may fall victim to a medical error during their stay, according to a study based on data from a new hospital error tracking system.
That would make medical errors 10 times more common than previously thought, according to a report in Health Affairs.
“It’s a little scary,” author Dr. David Classen of the University of Utah told WebMD. “We have gotten better tools to detect medical errors which give us a better yardstick to determine if we are improving.”
The increased number could be due to better reporting and tracking, rather than an increase in actual errors, but which is still to be determined.
Classen’s team used the Institute for Healthcare Improvements’ Global Trigger Tool, in which a team of nurses or pharmacists review medical charts for triggers such as a stop-medication order, an abnormal lab test result or the use of a known antidote. A physician then reviews the patient’s chart to see if the triggers led to errors. The method may be more sensitive that previous medical error tracking systems.
Hepatitis B discoverer Dr. Baruch Blumberg dies
The Nobel Prize-winning doctor who discovered hepatitis B, linked it with liver cancer and then helped save millions of lives by developing a vaccine died this week in California.
Dr. Baruch Blumberg, 85, apparently died of a heart attack shortly after delivering the keynote speech at a NASA conference in Moffett Field, Calif., April 5 near San Francisco.
In 1967 he and colleagues at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia discovered the hepatitis B virus, later developing the first test to detect it. In 1969 he and colleague Dr. Irving Millman developed the first so-called “cancer vaccine” for the disease. Blumberg won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1976, along with with Dr. Carleton Gajdusek, for their work on infectious viral diseases.
MRIs may predict Alzheimer’s risk
MRI scans of the brain might help forecast the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in adults already experiencing mild cognitive impairment, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.
Analysis of baseline MRI exams from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a large study of healthy individuals and others with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s showed that those with MCI had a one-year risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s ranging from 3 percent to 40 percent.
“In the last few years we’ve seen a real explosion of biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author Linda McEvoy of the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine. “Our ability to detect this has improved. I wasn’t surprised by the strength of the results.”
New screen cuts false positive results for prostate cancer
A new screening method for prostate cancer cuts the number of false positives compared with other tests, according to researchers at Northwestern University.
The standard test for prostate cancer measures levels of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. PSA is produced by the prostate and tends to be elevated in men with prostate cancer.
But that test is controversial because it often fails to differentiate between aggressive cancers and slow-growing, non-lethal versions of the disease. Many men undergo unnecessary biopsies and surgeries that can lead to incontinence and impotence.
The new screening method, the prostate health index, better identified cancer in men over age 50 whose total PSA levels made it uncertain if a biopsy was needed. Higher index scores also were linked to a higher probability of aggressive cancer, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Senators push to open Medicare database
Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Widen (D-Ore.) are pushing legislation that would lift the veil of secrecy surrounding Medicare’s vast database of payments to physicians.
The records in the Medicare claims database were sealed in 1979 after a judge ruled that physicians’ rights to privacy is greater than the public’s need to know how Medicare money is spent, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act would also require the Dept. of Health & Human Services to make the data available at no cost, but would keep patients’ identities under wraps.