Doctors diagnose their flaws

February 10, 2012

A survey of almost 1,891 physicians across the country finds that for some doctors, honesty is not always the best policy.

Approximately one third of participating physicians reported they did not completely agree that they should disclose medical errors to patients (20% of whom admitting they were afraid of being sued for malpractice).  TIME Healthland reports that 40 percent felt they did not need to disclose financial ties to drug or device companies.

In the past year, 55 percent of doctors said they had been more positive about a patient’s prognosis than warranted. Ten percent reported telling patients something that was not true.

Dr. Lisa Lezzioni, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author says:

“The finding that 55 percent had described a prognosis in a more positive manner than was warranted is pretty significant…They may not want to worry patients, or there may be cultural reasons why it feels inappropriate.”

According to The Huffington Post, the study notes that not enough training, insecurity over the accuracy of a prognosis, and lack of time may also play a role.

This study is published in the journal Health Affairs.

Did your country make the cut?

January 13, 2010

The Quality of Life Index, published by International Living magazine for the 30th year, recently revealed its list of the top places to live in the world. Congratulations to France for grabbing the number one spot for the fifth year in a row. The UK didn’t fare quite as well, falling five spots to number 25 on the list. The Daily Mail says it best: “While the British are infamous for a love of TV dinners and binge drinking, the French savour the finer things in life.”

194 countries were surveyed on nine categories – Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk and Climate. International Living gathers data from sources such as the World Health Organization and government websites; however, according to the website they also take into account what contributing editors have to say about the list. Well at least they flat out state their subjectivity in an appropriately titled sidebar called “Our Western Bias”.

France managed to receive 100 points for both its health care system and safety according to the International Business Times. They totaled 81 points in Culture and Leisure, proving that good food and good wine equal big points. The U.S. fell to number seven this year, mostly due to the economy. Italy rounds out the top ten, getting points for their health care system and rich culture. Here is a look at the top ten:

  1. France
  2. Australia
  3. Switzerland
  4. Germany
  5. New Zealand
  6. Luxembourg
  7. United States
  8. Belgium
  9. Canada
  10. Italy

You can click here to see the top 25 places to live.

Don’t bank on the rank

October 30, 2009

The United States ranks 37th in the world in health care, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Google the key words, and you find 3.7 million instances, with numerous mentions in recent months as the debate on health care reform heated up. What you won’t find are many articles questioning whether the statistic is true.

Enter the Wall Street Journal’s “Numbers Guy,” Carl Bialik, to deconstruct this damning statistic. First, it is based on a report released almost ten years ago. Second, this very report is based on out-of-date statistics that are incomplete and inaccurate.

The WHO ranking is composed of five criteria – life expectancy, responsiveness in providing diagnosis and treatment, inequality in health-care outcomes, inequality in responsiveness, and individual spending. The latter three proved to be the most controversial.

One huge issue was that the required data was not readily available for every nation; therefore, Bialik explains, WHO researchers would calculate the relationship between the five factors and whatever available numbers they could find. This means that literacy rates were sometimes used to approximate the quality of health care.

It is also difficult to create a ranking based on life expectancy when it is affected by a variety of factors outside of the heath-care system, such as diet and exercise habits, poverty, and homicide rate.

But wait, there’s more! According to an article from the Cato Institute, the data for each factor was collected from individual agencies and ministries. This creates inconsistencies in definition, reporting and methodology.

When individual spending is removed, the U.S. actually ranked much higher on the list. Bialik writes:

“…the WHO took the additional step of adjusting for national health expenditures per capita, to calculate each country’s health-care bang for its bucks. Because the U.S. ranked first in spending, that adjustment pushed its ranking down to 37th. Dominica, Costa Rica and Morocco ranked 42nd, 45th and 94th before adjusting for spending levels, compared to the U.S.’s No. 15 ranking. After adjustment, all three countries ranked higher than the U.S.”

Click here to see a chart from the Wall Street Journal that shows health care rankings when spending is removed.


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