World Health Organization Report Shines Light on Hospital Risks

According to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) going to the hospital may be a lot more dangerous than you think. On Friday the WHO released a report bringing attention to the risks of infection and doctor error that patients face worldwide and some of their findings are shocking.


The Prevalence of Infection World Wide

Worldwide the risk of getting an infection or being a victim of medical error in a hospital runs as high as 16% making your risk about 1 in 300, compare that with the risk of dying in a plane crash, 1 in ten million, and suddenly the hospital doesn’t seem like such a safe place to be. While the rates vary from hospital to hospital and country to country even the most affluent facilities are still at risk for infectious outbreaks. Though countries on all economic levels are at risk developing countries suffer twice the rate of infection as developed countries. Not only are the rates much higher but the types of infection are more severe. In more prosperous countries the leading type of infection is generally urinary tract infections from catheter use. In developing countries the most common infections occur at surgery sites at a rate of almost 1 in 3 patients. Not only are these infections far more dangerous and likely to be life threatening but they lead to extended hospital stays that drain already taxed hospital resources.


How to Protect Yourself

Included in the WHO report is the observation that many of these infections could be prevented if only healthcare workers employed better hand washing practices. If you are in the hospital always make sure that your healthcare provider washes their hands and puts on gloves immediately before administering injections, inserting IV’s or treating wounds. Also be on the lookout for dangling jewelry or sleeves these can harbor bacteria that can lead to infection. Before choosing a doctor or hospital be sure to ask about their infection rate. Ideally you want to find a hospital with an infection rate of 1 in 1,000 or less, anything over three and its best to find another location. Infections aren’t the only thing to beware of; you need to protect yourself against doctor error as well. Never be afraid to speak up for yourself, when it comes to your safety you have to be your own advocate. If you are unsure what a medication is for or why a test is being conducted ask questions until you are satisfied that you understand. If you will be undergoing surgery make sure your doctor is board certified. In order to be certified with the American Board of Surgery doctors must spend 5 years in surgical residency and complete oral and written exams. Also ask how many similar procedures your doctor has preformed. According to studies it takes surgeons 50 operations to reach a consistent level of quality in their performance.


While most hospitals in America are relatively clean and safe this report from the WHO reminds us of just how much more needs to be done to ensure patient safety.


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