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North Carolina malpractice rates have people seeking quality care

Over the last dozen years or so, North Carolina state health officials have tried to do something about alarming rates of medical malpractice in the state's health care institutions. Unfortunately, the rates of such incidents remain high and have not shifted down at the pace many would like to see. A study released by The New England Journal showed that 20 percent of North Carolina patients receive some sort of injury as the result of medical mistakes.

The study, conducted by the nation's foremost medical journal, randomly surveyed 10 hospitals in North Carolina. Of the patients treated, 588 injuries were reported. Shockingly, 17 of the injuries led to permanent medical damage and 14 ended in death. Throughout the United States, the number of medical-related injuries did not drop between 2002 and 2007, even though efforts aimed to do so.

These days, consumers want to have as much information as possible when they make important decisions, particularly those regarding medical treatment. The reality, however, is that there is no government standard for rating the nation's hospitals, so people seeking medical attention do not always have the resources necessary to make an informed decision. Meanwhile, many people are looking to third-party, online sources for information about the quality of their available medical options.

Despite a wealth of information on the web, it seems appropriate for federal health officials to implement some sort of standardized hospital rating system. At the same time, the government does keep records of when disciplinary actions are taken against physicians, but the specific names of doctors are sealed and such measures are not always taken when they should be.

Dealing with the chance of receiving an injury at the hands of a negligent medical provider is an unfortunate reality of North Carolina's hospital system. It's only practical that people would want as much information as possible when trying to make a good decision about which surgeon to choose or which obstetrician is the most reputable. Until a universal system of receiving information about health care operations is developed, patients will have to use all available resources to make a decision and be aware of their rights in the wake of a medical procedure.

Source: Salisbury Post, "Do your research on hospital care," Michael Smith, April 10, 2012

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