Lately, much of the conversation within the medical sphere has been focused on the topic of how safe hospitals are for their patients. Groups like Leapfrog, as recently as last month, have released hospital “report cards,” in which they report the level of quality and safety of 2,652 hospitals around the country. An article published by Health Leaders Media titled, “Hospitals Give Leapfrog Safety Scores a Failing Grade,” documents the displeasure that a number hospitals have expressed regarding their grade from Leapfrog. The publication of the Leapfrog report has undeniably caused a commotion within the industry.

Speaking of patient safety, a recent Health Leaders Media article titled, “Facebook Page Gathers Stories of Medical Harm,” describes a new project launch by ProPublica designed to give patients a platform where their voices will be heard. ProPublica, a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning newsroom that collaborates with other media outlets for investigative journalism, has launched the Patient Harm Community on Facebook.

The Patient Harm Community is an online forum where people can post their health care horror stories (injuries, infections, medical errors, etc). ProPublica’s Marshall Allen says that his reason for creating the community lies in the fact that, while researching medical errors over the years, he met so many people who have been injured or suffered infections unnecessarily, and felt they had nowhere to go for advice or guidance. He wanted to give those patients an opportunity to talk, to be heard, and to encourage one another. (Marshall’s series, “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas,” won a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.) Here’s how ProPublica describes its vision for the “Patient Harm Community” on Facebook:

“Here, we want to build a community of people interested in discussing patient harm, its causes and solutions. Among other things, we’ll post Q&As with experts and provide links to the latest reports, research and policy proposals. Your suggestions are welcome along the way.”

On the Patient Harm Community there are a number of documents designed to help the visitor and guide interaction on the site (community rules of engagement). One document, written by Marshall Allen, advises patients on the steps they should take if they have been harmed. It includes advice on seeking out an attorney, reporting the incident to regulators, and negotiating with the hospital to have  medical bills waived.

It would seem that ProPublica’s efforts have merit given that the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 180,000 deaths to Medicare beneficiaries in a year due to medical mistakes. This is a serious issue. The question is: Is ProPublica’s Facebook group the best way to take on the challenge and fix whatever is wrong with the system? Or, does it simply lead to more litigation and higher costs for everyone involved?

What do you think? Is ProPublica’s Patient Harm Community a necessary tool for enabling patients to be heard, to inform one another, and to be empowered? Or is it simply stirring the pot and not leading to any real, lasting change? What are your thoughts?

For more information on the topic and to link to the HealthLeaders story, click here.

(Post by Dan Dunlop with Charles Ramsey, Jennings Healthcare Marketing Intern and Wake Forest University Student.)

1 comment on “ProPublica’s “Patient Harm Community” on Facebook

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