No. 578



When I thought about a way to introduce my topic today, I was reminded of a question a man asked one of his lady friends. He said, "Have you ever been real sick?" She said, "No, but I have never been real well."
The medical profession in our nation has a tremendous challenge each day, as they try to keep as many of us as possible "real well" or as well as we can be given our age, medical history and other factors that determine the longevity of our lives. Personally, I am extremely grateful to be living in these exciting times as medical advances and technology have moved us to a point where the average life expectancy is somewhere between 75 and 80 years of age.
In contrast, in the year 1900, it was around 48 years of age. However, like most things, there is still room for improvement, especially as this relates to individual patients who check into our hospitals and medical clinics each day. I say this in light of something I received a while back from The Catalyst Group, a public relations firm representing a new medical service called MedeFile. More about this service in a moment, but here is something worth thinking about, especially if you are in poor health and make frequent trips to the hospital or to a doctor's office.
Each year in the U.S., about 195,000 people die due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors, according to a recent study of 37 million patient records by HealthGrades, an independent ratings, information and advisory services company. On average, medication errors alone increased costs by $2.8 million annually, and medical errors as a whole are estimated at $29 billion per year. According to Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, medical errors are the third leading cause of death, following only heart disease and cancer.
Forty-two percent of people believe they have personally experienced a medical mistake, according to a phone survey by the National Patient Safety Foundation. Medical errors can be fatal and cause "the equivalent of 390 jumbo jets full of people dying each year," according to Dr. Samantha Collier, vice president of medical affairs at HealthGrades. These preventable situations may have been averted if medical personnel had access to vital, up-to-date medical information.
MedeFile provides the solution to these medical technology needs. Cedar Knolls, N.J.-based MedeFile International introduces a new, cost-effective solution that is safe and secure for patients that desire to be in control of their vital lifetime medical records. For a fee, this new service provides customers, doctors, emergency room doctors, EMTs, etc., secure access to medical records 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from virtually anywhere in the world.
At this point, I would like to make a personal disclaimer. By sharing this information in a column, I am not endorsing this service. Rather, I am just passing along the concept and how it could potentially save the lives of many of the 195,000 individuals who die each year because of medical errors. No one in their right mind would think for a moment that this service, or any like it, could reduce all of these deaths but it is good to know that a service like this is now available for those who need or want it.
There is an old saying that applies here, "We all make mistakes, but doctors bury their mistakes." Most doctors and nurses are highly competent, but if you can afford it you may want to check out this service by going to their Web site so you can make an informed decision. I believe the key word in what I have been saying is "preventable." No point in dying before our time because of someone else's mistake.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")