March 1, 2001 (Washington) -- Two years ago, a blue-ribbon
panel committee dropped a bombshell -- the news that up to 98,000 Americans die
annually from medical errors. That finding, the reconvened panel says, was just
the "tip of the iceberg in the larger story about quality care."
At a news conference here Thursday, the same panel called the
diagnosis critical for quality healthcare in America.
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"We believe that since the current system can no longer
delivery quality care, that the report constitutes, if you will, a blueprint
... to make sure that [better] care is developed across the country," says
William Richardson, PhD, chair of the panel that produced both reports. This
one is titled, "Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the
21st Century." The report calls American healthcare "poorly
Greater access to records, as well as information over the
Internet, also were stressed in designing an" approach would emphasize
"I'd invite patients to read their records. ... I would
invest in forms of shared decision making," says panelist Donald Berwick,
MD, MPP, of Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The analysis, paid for in part by the federal government, was
put together by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which is part of the National
Academy of Sciences.
Ironically, in spite of great scientific advances like mapping
the human genome, the panelists found that the gap in effectively delivering
treatments to patients has widened into a chasm.
For example, too many patients overuse antibiotics, increasing
the problem of bacterial resistance, and too few patients get lifesaving drugs
after a heart attack, even though such actions fly in the face of well-known
"[M]illions of Americans fail to receive effective care. If
the healthcare system cannot consistently deliver today's science ... it is
even less prepared to respond to the extraordinary scientific advances that
will surely emerge during the first half of the 21st century," according to
Chief among the 19-member committee's concerns -- poorly
coordinated treatment for people with chronic conditions like breast cancer,
asthma, and diabetes.
Patients often have to fight their way through a maze of
providers to get the kind of care they need, says Richardson, who points out
that 70% of the care in the U.S. is now provided for long-term illnesses, even
though the system focuses mainly on short-term, acute problems.
Sen. Jim Jeffords, (R-Vt.), chairman of the government's Health
and Education Committee, says he hoped to introduce patient safety legislation
this spring, based on the IOM's first report. That sobering document led former
President Clinton to undertake a $50 million national effort to reduce medical
errors. Jeffords also stresses the idea of putting the nation's $20 billion
investment in medical research to better use in terms of enhancing healthcare