Rory Staunton. Photo courtesy of End Sepsis and the Staunton family
When 12-year-old Rory Staunton cut his arm during gym class in 2012, what should have been a simple wound became a nightmare that resulted in Rory’s death.
It started when the gym teacher covered the cut with two Band-Aids without cleaning it or sending Rory to the school nurse. It continued with each doctor Rory’s parents saw who neglected to identify his symptoms of sepsis, instead diagnosing him with a stomach virus and dehydration.
Ilana Yurkiewicz, M.D.
It’s a cliché to say that American health care is broken. Ilana Yurkiewicz, M.D., a Stanford University oncologist and internal medicine physician, says journalists should be more specific. The central problem, she argues, is that health care is fragmented.
“Fragmented” is the title of a new book in which Yurkiewicz, who’s written about medicine for such publications as Undark and Hematology News, describes barriers that prevent physicians from seeing a patient’s full medical narrative.
Health systems can’t easily share records. Electronic health records bury information. Payment systems de-prioritize follow-up. Grueling 28-hour shifts for medical residents discourage accountability. Primary care is underfunded. Sub-specialization is emphasized at the expense of holistic care.
From left to right: Ben Harder of U.S. News & World Report; Missy Danforth of Leapfrog; and Thomas Tsai, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School
For decades, same-day procedures such as joint replacements and colonoscopies have outnumbered inpatient surgeries, yet only recently have consumers had data on the quality and safety of facilities that do them.
A growing body of research shows a link between gender, race and ethnicity and unsafe patient care, but some experts say more comprehensive patient data are needed to better understand why certain groups are more likely to be harmed by medical error.
Hardeep Singh, M.D., M.P.H.
In 2015, major U.S. news organizations flocked to cover a seminal report by the Institute of Medicine that described the widespread harms from missed and delayed diagnoses.
But since that burst of attention, health care providers have done little to address the problem, according to leading researchers in the field who spoke at a conference in the Netherlands this month.
“I think every country is struggling with this,” Laura Zwaan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Institute of Medical Education Research at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said in an interview.