Sweeping changes underway in the nation’s health care delivery system that expose hundreds of thousands of patients to severe risk of harm are the focus of a major new national campaign by the nation’s largest organization of nurses announced today.
An unchecked proliferation of unproven medical technology and sharp erosion of care standards are rapidly spreading through the health care system, far outside the media spotlight but frighteningly apparent to nurses and patients, says National Nurses United.
In response, NNU has launched a major campaign featuring radio ads from coast to coast, video, social media, legislation, rallies, and a call to the public to act, with a simple theme – “when it matters most, insist on a registered nurse.” The ads were created by North Woods Advertising and produced by Fortaleza Films/Los Angeles.
To watch the new videos and hear the radio ads visit www.insistonanRN.org
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Key features of the new threat to patient safety include:
Digitalized care – experimental, unproven medical technology put patients at risk
Hospitals and other healthcare industry giants are spending billions of dollars on medical technology sold to the public as the cure for everything from medical errors to cutting costs. But the reality is proving to be far different, warns NNU.
Bedside computers that diagnose and dictate treatment for patients, based on generic population trends not the health status or care needs of that individual patient, increasingly supplant the professional assessment and judgment of experienced nurses and doctors exposing patients to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and life-threatening mistakes.
Computerized electronic health records systems too often fail, leaving doctors and nurses in the dark without access to medical histories or medical orders. The Office of the Inspector General for the Health and Human Services Department has reported widespread flaws in the heavily promoted systems. Telemedicine and robotics marketed as improved care deprive patients of individualized care so essential to the therapeutic process central to healing.
The face of future health care – a world without hospital care
Cutting costs is now seen as the prime directive in health care. Unwilling to reduce their profits or limit excessive pricing practices, the means to limiting expenses in the healthcare industry is by restricting or rationing care.
Insurance companies do that by denying claims or setting out-of-pocket costs so high Americans lead the developed world in skipping care when they need it because of the price. Hospitals, especially those that are also insurance companies, like Kaiser Permanente, or linking up with insurers through the new Accountable Care Organizations, restrict care by cutting patient services, limiting hospital admissions, or discharging still very ill patients to clinics, nursing facilities, or home, all settings that have fewer staff and regulations. Hospitals overall, have profit margins of 35 percent for elective outpatient services, compared to just 2 percent for inpatient care.
Nurses every day see patients denied admission who need hospital care, held on hallway gurneys in emergency departments, or parked in “observation” units. Observation is the latest fad in large part because Medicare reimbursement penalties for patients re-admitted within 30 days for the same illness do not apply if the patient was discharged from an observation unit.
The ascendance of profits while reducing access to professional nursing care
Hospital industry profits are at a record high – some $64.4 billion in 2012, according to American Hospital Association data. Kaiser Permanente, which is the model for many of the industry trends, just reported first-quarter profits of $1.1 billion, up nearly 44 percent from a year ago.
Yet, as one of the new NNU radio ads notes, many of those hospitals are spending their profits and patients’ health care dollars “on everything but quality patient care” – on technology, Wall Street investments, buying up other hospitals, while cutting the staff of bedside registered nurses, “the health professionals most critical to your care and safety.”
Inadequate, unsafe staffing is proliferating through the nation’s hospitals, even as hospitals shift care to other settings leaving the patients able to get in, and stay in hospitals, facing often perilous care standards. Just one example of many, in a report released May 12, Washington, DC nurses cited 215 incidents of severe understaffing, including life-threatening events, in District hospitals the past 15 months. RNs in DC and several states are pursuing safe staffing legislation.
‘Behind every statistic a patient exposed to unnecessary suffering’
“The American health care system already lags behind other industrialized nations in a wide array of essential health barometers from infant mortality to life expectancy. These changing trends in health care threaten to make it worse,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “Behind every statistic is a patient, and their family, who are exposed to unnecessary suffering and risk as a result of the focus on profits rather than what is best for individual patient need.”
“What we are advising every patient, every American to do is stand up and be heard,” said Ross. “When it matters most, insist on a registered nurse.”