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How Are the Quaid Twins Doing?

WebMD's exclusive interview with Dennis and Kimberly Quaid

Q: What surprising fact have they discovered about medical errors?

They’re shockingly common, Dennis and Kimberly Quaid have find out through their research. As in: daily. Medication errors happen on average once a day to a patient in the hospital, and that does not count surgical errors -- such as operating on the wrong limb. Up to 98,000 people a year die in U.S. hospitals as a result of medical errors.

Which is why he’s no longer just Dennis Quaid, actor, husband, father. He’s added ‘’health activist” to that list, and he takes his new role seriously.

Q: How are Dennis and Kimberly tackling the daunting challenge of helping change the U.S. medical system?

Shortly after the twins were released from the hospital last year, they set up The Quaid Foundation, dedicated to reducing medical mistakes. Dennis testified before Congress in May, voicing his strong opposition to the concept of preemption for pharmaceutical companies.

Opponents of applying preemption to pharmaceutical companies say it will undermine a patient's ability to sue if harmed by a drug; proponents say the possibilities of lawsuits after a prescription medication has been approved stifle innovation and say preemption won't deny patients legal redress.

A court case, Wyeth v. Levine, due to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall, will rule on that concept of preemption and whether it holds true for pharmaceutical companies.

The overdose incident was equally life-changing for Kimberly, a former real estate agent who’s been married to Dennis since 2004. As upsetting as it all was, and she still wells up when she talks about it, “I feel like we’re here for a reason, that this happened for a reason.”

That reason? Nothing less than to change the way health care is practiced in the United States so help prevent medical errors.

Q: What do they and their Quaid Foundation advocate as the solution to helping prevent medical errors?

Both Dennis and Kimberly have done their research, combing through medical journals and statistical reports and visiting model programs striving to fundamentally address the problem by stopping errors at the source.

They both flew to Texas in July to tour Children’s Medical Center Dallas, which is launching a new bar coding system. The couple personally observed the system of built-in checks as they followed the process of ordering a drug through administering it to a patient, Dennis tells WebMD.

Bar coding is one of two systems most often cited by safety experts as key ways to reduce medical errors. The second is computerized physician-order entry systems. Put simply, bar coding involves a healthcare worker’s going through a series of checks before giving a patient a drug—scanning his own bar-coded badge, the patient’s bar-coded wristband, and the medication bar code, then pulling up the patient’s computerized medical record to be sure it’s the right drug, right dose, and correct time to give it. If there is a conflict, the computer sends an error message.

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