While technology has come a long way and has greatly improved the quality of life for millions of people around the world, it has also led to many unforeseen consequences. The drive for efficiency combined with these advancements has minimized the quality and time that physicians spend with patients. Additionally, the outsourcing of services that were previously managed in-hospital has resulted in an unfortunate decline in quality care.
Consider the case of a Pennsylvania resident who went from headache to coma due to severe hospital error. An MSNBC article examined her horrific hospital experience. When emergency room doctors suspected she had a cerebral hemorrhage, CT scans were ordered. Unfortunately, her hospital outsourced much of the radiology department and did not have someone on-site to interpret the scans. The off-site radiologist found a tumor that was not immediately life-threatening and so the patient was released.
The patient soon found herself back in the emergency room and additional CT scans, this time with more contrast, were ordered. The off-site radiologist who reviewed the scans found a potentially serious issue, but did not explain what this issue could mean in the notes sent back to the hospital. The physician, unaware of this issue, released her from the hospital. This issue turned out to be an abscess, a potentially life-threatening buildup of fluid in the brain.
Days later, the patient was found unconscious and remained in a coma for 11 weeks. She suffered serious and permanent damage to her cognitive skills. Her parents, with the aid of a medical malpractice attorney, sued the hospital and rightfully so. While the settlement is confidential and no amount of money could ever fully heal the woman, this case is an example of the dangers of medical diagnosis errors.
This situation is typical of many hospitals in Florida and around the country. The radiologist interpreting the scans may be in another city, state, or even country. They typically work with notes written by the patient’s physician and send their observations back via the same medium. Perhaps her condition could have been discovered sooner, had the physician and radiologist properly communicated, as they would have done in times past.
For women, the outsourcing of hospital radiology departments can pose a deeper risk. Scans are frequently done to detect conditions that affect women at high rates, such as certain types of cancer. A failure to diagnose breast cancer or failure to diagnose cervical cancer can critically impact a woman’s health. Nobody should have to suffer due to the broken communication system of hospitals, physicians, or radiologists. We deserve better quality of care from our medical system, regardless of how far our society has come technologically.