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Healthcare Risks

This paragraph in the Atlantic September 2008 article called How American Health Care Killed My Father stood out to me:

About a week after my father’s death, The New Yorker ran an article by Atul Gawande profiling the efforts of Dr. Peter Pronovost to reduce the incidence of fatal hospital-borne infections. Pronovost’s solution? Hospitals implementing Pronovost’s checklist had enjoyed almost instantaneous success, reducing hospital-infection rates by two-thirds within the first three months of its adoption. But many physicians rejected the checklist as an unnecessary and belittling bureaucratic intrusion, and many hospital executives were reluctant to push it on them. The story chronicled Pronovost’s travels around the country as he struggled to persuade hospitals to embrace his reform.

Here again is a fine example of the issues around making a simple security choice even among highly educated professionals and presumably rational thinkers. Washing hands is resisted in spite of a well documented if not obvious potential to reduce risk. The rest of the article is a very thoughtful look at what the author calls “impersonal forces” that cause distortions to risk decisions, as well as suggestions on health-care reform.

Posted in Security.


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