Monday, November 7, 2011

Illinois state officials decline to investigate vast majority of hospital complaints

This Chicago Tribune article provides a disturbing view into how our healthcare system is devolving - states don't have the resources to oversee, monitor, regulate hospitals. Federal regulators may also be ineffective in this setting. If this is happening in Illinois, is it conceivable that it is not also happening in other states in the US?

Budgets and staffing are tight, and as such, many complaints go unreviewed. This leaves patients and staff who issue the complaints to feel that their voices do not matter, or that the issues they are perceiving are somehow "within the standard of care".

The very gist of patient safety is threatened when we cannot hold ourselves accountable to reviewing the complaints alleged against us. Even if many of these turn out to be baseless, the act of reviewing the concerns provides insight, learning, and confidence about the systems that are working within an institution and those that are not. If done properly and honestly, when we uncover issues with our systems of care, we can then take the time to develop corrective action plans that aim to remove the root causes of these issues. However, this notion of "feedback driving improvement" seems quite naive in the face of some of the allegations in this article.

When service providers are not able or willing to demonstrate improvement, and when the regulators do not have the capacity, will, or political gumption to oversee and enforce, our systems have declined to the point that new modes of organization and governance have to come into being. A grassroots "takeback healthcare" movement and/or a major disruptive force of another kind is required to exert the kind of leadership and change an ailing health system needs to cure itself.