Jan 02 2010 Hospitals Are Dangerous Places
This letter to the NY Times highlights one of the many reasons that hospitals are dangerous places.
To the Editor:
Re “Napping During Hospital Shifts” (editorial, Dec. 9):
Further shortening hospital doctors’ workweeks will only increase the mistakes patients endure. The all-too-frequent errors my patients encounter when hospitalized are almost always caused by doctors who don’t know them well enough, not by doctors who are too sleepy.
My conversations about patients with hospital staff members almost always begin with, “I don’t know this patient well — I’m just covering.” This problem began with the decrease in residents’ workweeks in the 1980s. It will only get worse with yet another increase in the number of “handoffs” to which each patient is subjected.
Every patient should have a doctor who is in charge throughout the entire hospital stay. Internet technology should make that resident available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, through real-time audiovisual links — even if the doctor is at another hospital, at home or vacationing in the Poconos.
Error rates would drop, the quality of care would improve and doctors in training could experience the emotional rewards of actually shepherding someone through an illness. And the length of the on-site workweek could be reduced.
New York, Dec. 9, 2008
The writer is an internist.