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Failure to Coordinate Care Causes Many Medical Mistakes

Medical malpractice is caused by many factors in the United States. Individual failures, such as a doctor or nurse not washing hands before contact with patients, are one source of the larger problem.

The larger problem also involves a healthcare system that, compared to other developed countries, too often fragments patient care. A new study by the Commonwealth Fund shows that the poor coordination of care leads to poor medical outcomes - many of which involve medical negligence

In other industrialized countries, patients generally have better access than in the U.S. to what the research study calls "medical homes." A medical home is a place where medical professionals who know their patients' medical histories are readily accessible to coordinate care.

This coordinating role becomes particularly important when a patient requires complex treatment.

The Commonwealth Fund research documents some of the ways in which the fragmented U.S. system breaks down. With a lack of coordination for the care that is provided, as many as 42 percent of sick patients in the United States are subjected to duplicate tests, gaps in the care that is delivered, or other problems.

That is more than two patients in every five. And it is double the rate in the United Kingdom or Switzerland, two countries where the "medical home" model is in more widespread use.

"For sicker patients and patients having chronic disease, having a medical home makes a difference," said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president at the Commonwealth Fund.

The Commonwealth Fund's study was based on a survey of about 18,000 patients in 11 countries who were seriously or chronically ill.

The study found the rate of medical mistakes reported by patients to be two to three times higher in the U.S. than in Switzerland or the U.K.

Source: "Study: U.S. Pays More, but Health Care is Worse," webmd, 9-9-11

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