Are bad teaching hospitals creating bad habits in doctors?

A recent analysis has found that some teaching hospitals may be creating bad habits in young doctors.

Teaching hospitals are often seen as facilities where patients can receive excellent care thanks to their association with prestigious academic institutions. These teaching hospitals are where new generations of doctors train and learn valuable skills that will hopefully serve them well throughout their professional lives. However, a recent STAT analysis has found that while most teaching hospitals do indeed provide a high level of care and training, many with high rates of medical errors may be instilling in their young doctors bad habits that could end up harming countless patients.

Teaching hospitals with multiple citations

The STAT analysis relied on inspection reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to track the patient safety records of about 1,200 teaching hospitals across the country. The good news was that most of those hospitals received no citations between 2014 and 2017, the period covered by the study. However, a substantial minority did receive citations and some received dozens of citations each year.

As Becker's Hospital Review points out, the teaching hospitals that received the most CMS citations between 2014 and 2017 were West Valley Medical Center in Idaho (with 45), Regional Health Rapid City in South Dakota (with 44), and Howard University Hospital in the District of Columbia (with 36). A total 5,500 safety violations occurred at all of the teaching hospitals studied over the four-year span and a quarter of the hospitals received at least one citation. Those cited included prestigious facilities associated with such renowned institutions as Harvard, Columbia, and Case Western.

Old school culture persists

The problem of medical errors has been one that many hospitals have been forced to address since 1999. That's when the publication of the groundbreaking "To Err is Human" report by the Institute of Medicine found that up to 98,000 Americans die each year because of hospital errors. Before that report came out, it was common for hospitals to treat patient harm as examples of individual errors made by residents or other individuals rather than the result of underlying systemic issues.

While many hospitals have gone a long way towards addressing systemic problems that lead to patient harm, at some hospitals this "old school culture" persists. That culture tends to believe that education happens through making mistakes and that oversight of trainees should be kept to a minimum. Trainees at teaching hospitals who make mistakes are, it is feared, more likely to take these bad habits with them throughout their careers. A survey of residents taken in the mid-2000s found that only 54 percent knew how to report errors at the hospitals they worked at.

Medical malpractice law

Patients who may have been harmed by a health care provider should be aware that there are places they can turn to for help. A medical malpractice attorney, for example, can help injured patients potentially file a claim for compensation. While such cases are notoriously complex, an attorney will be well positioned to help clients understand the process and what their rights are.