The COSTS of Medical Records Errors and Lies

Sometimes my radio show conversations take a very unexpected turn — and yesterday’s post-air chat was no exception, although I have to say, this one surprised even me.  I’ve been hearing stories from the dark side of medicine for more than 2-1/2 years, ever since I started by advocacy work.  I thought I’d gotten a taste of almost everything.  But this one…

Yesterday’s radio interview took place with Dr. Robert Carhart, a cardiologist from University Hospital whom I have mentioned previously.  He has a knack for explaining things to those of us who don’t know medicine so we can understand them .  Yesterday’s topic was heart attack — just the basics — and what patients or their loved ones need to do when/if even the vaguest of symptoms rear their ugly heads.

Once the mikes were turned off, we began talking about what happens when a heart attack victim is taken to the hospital, and what problems patients need to be aware of.  We weren’t talking about the patient’s health at that point.  We were talking about the behind-the-scenes, little known “tricks” used by hospitals that can have longer term ramifications should the patient survive. 

What I never knew:  reimbursements for heart attacks are higher than those for most other emergencies.  That means when the hospital (emergency room) sends their bill to medicare or insurance, they make more money if they document a heart problem.  As a result — think about this — if they can make any suggestion whatsoever on someone’s record that there was an erratic EKG or any other test they might run for heart problems, then they make more money.

Dr. Carhart told about a story he had heard (NOT in conjunction with his own hospital) about a man who had been taken to the hospital for vague heart attack symptoms (a very smart thing to do, by the way — even if you aren’t sure you’re having a heart attack, err on the side of caution!).  They ran an EKG and other tests, then put him in a room to wait to be seen by the doctor.  Every 20 or 30 minutes, a nurse would drop in to tell him they were still checking on his heart attack — but — it was very clear there was no emergency!  If he had really had a heart attack, he would have been treated immediately and sure enough, when he was discharged several hours later, the information he was given reflected nothing about heart problems.  HOWEVER….

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