Friday, October 20, 2006

What are you doing, MGH?

Some years ago the notion that hospitals should be striving for something called “healthy communities” was popular.

In more recent times, there has been concern over whether non-profit hospitals are providing enough “community benefit” to warrant their tax exemption.

Well, I have come across something that perhaps they should look into.

The October 18, 2006 issue of The Boston Globe reported the results of a study of harmful reactions to prescription drugs that resulted in visits to hospital emergency rooms. The study was developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The study included 63 hospitals that reported 21,298 such incidents during a one year period ending in 2005. Extrapolated nationally, those figures result in an estimate of over 700,000 emergency visits for adverse drug reactions per year.

There are about 956,000 hospital beds in the U.S. By my calculation, that means that hospitals experience on average about 0.73 drug reaction visits to their emergency visits per bed per year.

The Massachusetts General Hospital, commonly considered one of the best hospitals in the country, has about 900 beds. So it must on average see about two such patients per day. (For a variety of reasons, it seems reasonable to assume that the number is probably higher.)

I wonder if the leaders at MGH are aware of this and what, if anything, they are doing about it.

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