I was talking with a wonderful woman I'd met at a faculty workshop the other day--let's call her "Semi." Semi is an experienced cardio-pulmonary I.C.U. manager from Chicago, the kind of career medical professional that keeps you and your loved ones alive when the bad things happen. Her story shocked me.
Semi had compiled an extensive, multi-year, medical study on mortality and health outcomes of critical cardiac patients. Using the relatively recently available electronic reporting methods that permitted her and her research team, for the first time, to cross reference some eighty-five thousand medical cases in literally dozens of hospital cardiac I.C.U. units across the nation, Semi and team were able to institute organizational changes to the monitoring of I.C.U. patients that resulted in the lowering of mortality (that's death for you and me), by an unheard rate of 80% annually.
You heard me correctly, the changes in monitoring patients in her cardiac care unit at a large hospital in Chicago, dropped mortality for patients by a count of 8 out of every 10 patients. In other words, where as some 600 to 700 patients had died in the unit the previous years, these patients now survived and returned home with far better recovery outcomes.
So the problem? Her hospital didn't want to publish her research. Nor did they wish to continue to institute the changes necessary to implement said research findings, as they modestly increased costs for cardiac care.
Yeah, it's all about the money. You see, if a patient has a cardiac event or stroke, then the hospital gets to bill somebody for it, but if the hospital prevents that from happening and the patient gets better, the hospital basically loses money on the deal.
Not only are the patients "cheaper" dead, but actually far more profitable.
Semi also happens to be an African-American woman, one of those ladies who worked her way up, one of those success stories we're supposed to be celebrating in a society that has far too few such stories. She told me that many of her colleagues were being forced out of their profession.
What? I had to reply.
Evidently, many African-American professionals in the medical practices were being removed from their positions because they have now reached sufficient seniority at middle-management levels to be a threat to senior management positions. Semi thought it was about jobs, specifically protecting jobs and turf from other folks that ain't like the good old boys who currently hold that turf.
As she described the kinds of barriers and tactics being used against her fellow healthcare professionals, I had to agree with her assessment, even if I hated the idea that something like that could still be happening in America in 2013, and even more so, that it was happening in a community like Chicago, where African-Americans are a huge part of the community.
So I eagerly agreed to help Semi get her work published, and now the whole march towards that goal begins. Meanwhile, I have to wonder what it will take to get an open playing field in any of the professions nowadays, seeing my own profession has more than enough problems with race, gender, and culture of its own.
Still, a breakthrough in care practices that gives results as large as when doctors first began washing their hands deserves to be professionally reviewed and known to the public at large.
Because if it were up to the medical industry, they'd just as soon that you die.