Poor hygiene in hospitals, combined with the growing resistance to antibiotics of superbugs (primarily because we feed antibiotics to livestock), means that in the USA alone, 48,000 people die each year from infections and illnesses they did not have upon admission.
A new study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that an alarming number of Americans are dying in the hospital from two infectious diseases: sepsis (also known as systemic inflammatory response syndrome, it causes widespread inflammation and blood clotting and can lead to organ failure and death) and pneumonia. But the victims of these health problems weren’t originally hospitalized because of these illnesses. Instead, they were in the hospital for other reasons. In fact, some were healthy and simply having an elective procedure. Yet they ended up dead.
Improved hygiene will be a partial remedy, that new initiatives are occurring worldwide. But the resistance problem will probably keep getting worse. I propose that, for those who can afford it, and care requirements do not depend on immediate response from medical staff, that in-home treatment is preferable.
With modern technology, vital signs etc can be monitored remotely. A nurse can visit daily to check on the patient. However, in-home surgery is impractical. My suggestion is that we decentralize operating theaters. Rather than having them in a hospital full of sick people, they should be located in each suburb. Thoroughly cleansed after each operation, and with no waiting rooms or wards, the contact with other sick people can be minimalized.
For people who need to be in a hospital, we need a system that splits up folk based on category. Those who are not infectious should be housed together (for example, plastic surgery, re-constructive surgery, broken bones, pregnancies), and those that are should be somewhere else. Ideally, a separate hospital should exist for each disease, so that those with swine flu are only housed with others with swine flu.
This would require a massive re-organization of our health systems, but if it is inevitable, perhaps sooner is better. Specialization should also apply to visiting your doctor. It’s getting beyond the joke that if you have a limp because you damaged your knee playing basketball, that you should first visit your GP, and then get referred to a specialist. For such obvious situations, direct access to a specialist is needed. If you’ve got the ‘flu, then you should visit a ‘flu clinic, not your GP.
BTW, all the old blog posts can be found here.