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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Better Enjoy It While It Lasts

It was in 1965 that Ralph Nader published “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a book that nailed the automobile industry for not building enough safety into their vehicles. If memory serves, the general reaction of the public, and of government, was to tell the automobile manufacturers to shape up and fix it. And with some regulatory prodding that is pretty much what they did.

Some 36 years later, the Institute of Medicine issued a similar blockbuster, claiming that medical errors were killing over 90,000 people per year.

Remarkably, the reaction has been very different this time. The July 26, 2005 issue of AHA News Now (the daily e-mail news bulletin of the American Hospital Association) reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (the federal Medicare and Medicaid agency) had on the previous day provided congressional committees with a “roadmap” for improving the nation’s health care quality. The five point plan consisted of

· Close partnerships with federal agencies and private-sector groups.
· Widespread use of quality measures.
· Tying Medicare and Medicaid payment to quality.
· Promotion of adoption of health information technology.
· Efforts to speed access to new and better treatments and evidence.

Not a word about telling the providers of health care to shape up and fix it.

It surely cannot stay that way forever.

So health care leaders better enjoy it while it lasts.

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