Blog spotlight: The impact of unnecessary procedures on quality and patient safety

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

August 7, 2012

All medical procedures come with some degree of risk, and one doesn’t need to look very far to find stories of surgeries gone terribly wrong, leading to serious injury or death of the patient involved. Such errors affect the hospital as well as patients, impacting an organization’s reputation and its quality rating; beginning shortly, CMS will tie Medicare payments to quality measures and performance standards.  Many procedures benefit patient s despite great risks. But what about procedures that aren’t essential to patient’s health?

A report published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecologyexamines data from a quality improvement program in Ohio that addressed the issue of scheduling deliveries prior to the due date. While in some instances it is medically necessary for a woman to undergo early elective delivery, some physicians may be scheduling births without clear medical necessity or for reasons of convenience. Babies born early are at risk for health problems such as breathing and feeding issues, temperature regulation, and liver problems, something the study’s authors warn against when arguing that unnecessary scheduled births should be avoided. Early births have also been linked to higher rates of infant mortality, death after birth, and death during infancy. These risks should outweigh the convenience of scheduling an unnecessary early birth in the minds of both the patient and the physician.

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