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The Best of Claims, the Worst of Claims

It was the best of claims; it was the worst of claims… the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness… belief vs. incredulity… hope vs. despair… etc., etc. The iconic opening paragraph from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities makes one realize such conflicts do exist in the same space and time, albeit through different personal perspectives. Such is the reality in workers’ comp claims, where the single biggest factor in outcome is often the claimant’s attitude.

A client claim-audit project offers a jarring comparison between two claim files from different parts of the country. The claims exemplify how little control we actually have over an employee’s attitude in the disability management process, and show how vastly different the human tolls can be.

Both claims were in excess of 10 years old. Both involved exaggerated and evolving symptoms with eventual narcotic prescriptions for “pain management.” At approximately the same time, however, each took a different path.

One claimant found her own reasons and will-power to end the years she spent on prescribed pain-killers. She entered a drug treatment process on her own, eventually stopped her prescriptions and found a full-time job. The other claimant dove deeper into narcotic addiction and exhibited classic drug seeking behavior – such as “losing” his prescriptions and requiring early refills. He tested positive for other illegal drugs once his rightfully suspicious physician initiated a monitoring program.

There was no appreciably different set of claim management tools or tactics used for the claims – the stark difference in outcome came down to the want of the individual… an almost impossible aspect for the day-to-day claim practitioner or human-resources manager to reach or control. And, at the time of my audit, the claims were equally easy to close.

The woman free of prescriptions and carrying a full-time job was simply no longer a claimant. She was probably very happy to have her case closed and the dark chapter of her life over. We decided on an administrative closure of the claim.

On the other hand, the gentleman was barred from his erstwhile treating physician and pain management clinic for abusing meds and refusing a drug treatment program. A host of independent medical opinions indicated the man did not require further meds for the old injury. His everyday behavior was highly unfocused and erratic, apparently causing no attorney to take his WC case. He lived out of a tent in a relative’s backyard.

The man’s claim was also an easy administrative closure because of lack of any foreseeable prosecution. I have to admit his situation nicked at my coat of cynicism, the one layered thick from years in this profession. I hated the plain fact that he was a doomed victim of a WC system enabling his addictive conditions.

To my good readers, I ask: Which closure would you rather preside over?

Quick-Tip: Know When to Hold ‘Em But Don’t Wait to Fold ‘Em

Concept:

When reasonable medical treatment has no impact, quickly consider other options. A claimant with misguided intentions or extraneous problems and no desire to be “cured” might just be his own worst enemy and using the WC claim as a primary enabler.

Suggestions:

– Find appropriate ways to incorporate employee assistance programs (EAPs) or other specialty counseling services to support employees or WC claimants who have debilitating outlooks or possible addiction issues.

– Maintain a “no-fill” position on narcotic prescriptions. This will give you and your defense team at least an opportunity to block dangerous drugs before they are automatically initiated.

– Consider any “chronic pain” diagnosis to indicate maximum medical improvement (MMI). “Chronic” as a term arguably fits MMI. Try to settle the case under that premise. Fight the diagnosis and treatment plan, as a means to pressure settlement. If the plaintiff’s side argues against an MMI determination, then demand a treatment outlook and timeline that results in stopping pain medication.

– For claims with long-term narcotic situations, seek peer reviews to ascertain if the regimes are excessive and if a recommendation for detoxification is appropriate. Specifically set up medical evaluations to confirm addiction and substance abuse tendencies.

– Never presume a claimant with the wrong attitude and bleak outlook will be cured by any type of treatment. Know when you are wasting time and money. You must sense and act on this early. Don’t rely on adjusters to raise questions, as their inclination is to keep treating as long as medical opinion approves. You must take the role of disruptor.

Bottom line” It is distressing that workers’ comp enables addiction. Closing such cases is not always pretty. Learn from the disasters and take more responsibility in the future. Recognize that claimant attitude and outlook are of primary importance, for good or for bad.

Settlement of High-Exposure Workers' Comp Claims: Part One

In nearly every workers' compensation program, cases that are referred to as “legacy files,” “dog files” and a myriad of other names (some of which are not appropriate for print) represent high-exposure claims that drive costs. Identifying and resolving these cases early can reduce exposure and overall costs.

The first part of this three-part series will look at what can trigger those important cases. 

Identification

Generally speaking, a few cases represent the vast majority of the cost of a workers’ compensation program. Many are driven by the medical treatment necessary to cure or relieve the effects of the injury. While the indemnity aspect (permanent partial and permanent total disability) can be important, typically it is much easier to quantify these benefits than it is to determine the medical costs.

The high-exposure claims fall into two categories: acute and chronic.

Some examples of acute cases are quadriplegics, paraplegics, severe burns, amputations and head traumas. These injuries are severe and occur immediately as a result of the initial injury. In most instances, there is a significant initial cost, and the continuing care is substantial.

Chronic catastrophic cases, on the other hand, are much more difficult to identify. They typically start off in benign fashion (lumbar strain, knee strain, etc.) and deteriorate into multiple surgeries, lengthy periods of lost time and permanent disability. Chronic cases typically develop about five years after the injury.

A variety of metrics can be used to identify these cases and bring them to the forefront of a settlement initiative. 

Co-Morbidity

A case review can reveal numerous medical conditions that affect potential future exposure, including hypertension, obesity, diabetes, nicotine usage and excessive alcohol consumption. In many instances, these conditions are considered non-industrial and are not identified as cost drivers for the workers’ compensation claim. They are, nonetheless, extremely important in the healing process.

For example, the failure rate of spinal fusions is 20% to 30% in cigarette smokers, nearly double that in non-smokers. The failure of a spinal fusion typically results in one or more additional procedures, including: 1) a repeat fusion; 2) trial/implantation of a spinal cord stimulator; or 3) trial/implantation of an intrathecal pump (commonly referred to as a morphine pump). The costs associated with a failed fusion are payable by the claim, significantly increasing its duration and the cost. 

Similarly, high glucose levels in diabetics can cause poor circulation, diabetic neuropathy and deficiencies in the immune system–all factors in recovering from injuries and surgeries. When an injured worker needs lower extremity surgery (foot, ankle, knee, etc.) and his diabetes is not well-controlled, significant medical problems can develop, including delayed recovery, infections and, in extreme cases, amputation. Again, whether or not the diabetes pre-dated the industrial injury, it can drive medical, indemnity and expense costs. Further, in some jurisdictions, a defendant may become liable for treatment of the diabetic condition if there is evidence that the condition was exacerbated or “lit up” as a result of the industrial injury.

These are just two examples of many nonindustrial co-morbid conditions that can have a significant impact on the cost and duration of a claim.

Life Expectancy and Inflation

In identifying cases that may become high-exposure claims, it is critical to determine the life expectancy of the injured worker. According to the Department of Labor, the median age of the workforce today is 42 years. Based on figures from the National Center for Health Statistics, that would result in a remaining life expectancy of 38 years, on average between men and women. So, it could be necessary to provide medical benefits for an extended period.

The rate of medical inflation is typically 8% a year, so the cost of medical care for an individual will double approximately every eight years.  We refer to this as The Rule of 8.  If an individual is consuming $5,000 a year in treatment today, a doubling every eight years would mean the medical cost would exceed $80,000 annually as he approaches the end of life (see Chart I below). The figures do not consider any deterioration in the medical condition.

Medications

Prescription and consumption of medications is escalating. In severe cases, the individual becomes dependent, and the physician is left with few other treatment options. We see instances where medications are prescribed, then additional prescriptions are viewed as necessary to counteract side effects.

New medications are approved by the FDA on a regular basis and are often prescribed in workers’ compensation claims.  More and more, a physician will prescribe an “off label” medication (one that has been approved by the FDA for a specific condition or purpose not consistent with the diagnosis).  Because of patents, there are no generics, and the medications can be costly. An example is Actiq.  This medication was approved by the FDA for the treatment of pain in Stage IV cancer patients.  But, in recent years, physicians have prescribed Actiq for the treatment of chronic spine pain.  The medication can cost upward of $4,000 to $6,000 a month. 

Addition of Body Parts

We all remember the old “Dem Bones” song: “The knee bone’s connected to the thighbone, the thighbone’s connected to the …”  Well, nothing could be more accurate in the world of workers’ compensation.  In catastrophic cases, additional body parts are almost universally alleged as part of the industrial injury. A cervical injury expands into the upper extremities. A knee injury expands to the back and ankle because of an altered gait.  Medications prescribed for chronic pain cause internal complaints.

Identification Process

These triggers, and others, can make a case spiral into a high-exposure claim.  Part II of this series will discuss, in detail, approaches that can be used to assess these types of cases and focus on strategies to mitigate the exposure and move the cases toward resolution.

25 Axioms Of Medical Care In The Workers Compensation System

  1. The right medical care at the right time is always in the best interest of the injured worker and almost always will result in the lowest claims costs.
  2. The right medical care at the right time will (almost always) result in an earlier return to work with less permanent residual disability.
  3. Evidence-based medicine is the right care for the legitimately injured workers. (There is a hierarchy on how to apply evidence-based medicine).
  4. To control worker's compensation medical costs requires both a fee schedule and an ability to control the frequency and the appropriateness of treatment. One without the others usually results in massive increase in medical costs for the system.
  5. The medical treatment fee schedule should be clear, easy to use, accurate and reflect the latest technology.
  6. A fee-for-service system may result in incentives for physicians to over-treat, inappropriately.
  7. In many jurisdictions Worker's Compensation is generally the last fee-for-service system.
  1. As long as workers compensation uses a fee-for-service system, medical utilization review is needed to make sure that the physicians will treat adhering to evidence-based medicine.
  2. Pharmacy utilization is problematic because of the “Medicalization” of the general population. (Medicalization is the direct advertising of symptoms and diagnoses to the general population by drug manufacturers, resulting in an overuse and/or misuse of some types of drugs and therapies).
  3. There is a significant problem with “off label use” of drugs in the worker's compensation system. (Off Label is the use of a drug for treatment that was not the reason for its approval from the FDA).
  4. Medical decisions should be made by medical professionals. Most Workers' Compensation judges, attorneys, and claims adjusters have little to no formal medical training and are not medical professionals.
  5. Poorly (inappropriate) placed incentives will result in poor medical outcomes. (There are several studies that demonstrate that allowing physicians to do self-referrals or to dispense pharmacy goods from their offices will usually result in a utilization of unnecessary services or inappropriate usage of drugs).
  6. Even if the doctor is not dispensing the drugs, opiates require regular visits to the doctor for renewal of the prescription and also may involve expensive drug testing; so there is a financial interest on the part of some doctors to prescribe opiates.
  7. Some physicians who prescribe opiates do not fully appreciate the addictive power of the drugs that they are using or the difficulty in detoxing the patients.
  8. There are currently enough treating physicians and specialty physicians in most urban areas; however there are not enough physicians (treating, orthopedic or neurosurgeons, etc.) in the rural areas to meet the demand. This problem will only get worse as the population ages and more doctors retire. It will also get worse if physicians leave workers' compensation due to the demand for their services due to the implementation of the federal universal health care programs.
  9. Many surgeons and other physicians want to perform their craft (do surgery, provide injections, etc.). They truly believe that their surgery or injections will work even if the prior treatments have not been successful or if current evidence-based medicine says surgery is not appropriate.
  10. Every patient looks like a good candidate for an MRI when there is an MRI machine in the doctor's office.
  11. Not every person with a surgical or potentially surgical condition is a good surgical candidate. Though pre-surgical psychiatric evaluations are required for spinal cord stimulators (post spine surgery), the same is not true for many other surgeries.
  12. It is difficult for a patient who is in intractable pain to believe that strong medications (including opiates) are not appropriate or are not good.
  13. It is difficult for a patient who is in intractable pain to believe that not having back surgery will have the same ultimate result as having surgery when the surgeon is saying (with confidence) that the surgery will cure all. Even though current evidence-based medicine says differently.
  14. Because “doing something is better than doing nothing” when the patient is in intractable pain, if the surgeon says surgery will not be successful, the injured worker will attempt to find someone who will say that the surgery “will be more successful than not having surgery,” and will then attempt to have the surgery.
  15. Patient advocacy is the application of appropriate treatment and patient encouragement that allows the patient to remain as functional and productive as possible.
  16. Patient advocacy does not always mean the pursuit of treatment a patient desires.
  17. Patient advocacy may require the physician to decline to do the treatment sought by the patient when that treatment is inappropriate.
  18. In Workers'Compensation, there are many (known and unknown) underlying non-industrial, psyche/social issues that may hinder or completely stop optimum medical recovery.

Game-Changing Strategies to Transform Workers' Compensation

The workers' compensation system continues to face three major challenges: reducing the spiral of rising costs for claims, improving outcomes for medical care, and streamlining efficiencies which impacts both care and costs.

Each year, workers' compensation medical costs continue to escalate — they now constitute 60% of total claims costs according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance. The average medical cost of lost-time claims has more than tripled during the last 20 years. The Workers Compensation Research Institute recently reported that outpatient hospital average payments per claim were up 31% from 2006 to 2010, while inpatient hospital payments per episode jumped 36% during the same time.

Unfortunately, the inter-related nature of components in workers' compensation makes it difficult to achieve long-term, consistent progress in cost containment. While medical expenses are recognized as an increasingly powerful cost driver, the total cost picture is impacted by more than just charges for and volume of medical services. Quality medical care is behind the speed and ability of the injured worker's ability to return to work, which influences indemnity and lost time costs. Litigation by dissatisfied claimants adds to the expense picture. However, the fact is that medical costs and care are the 800-pound gorillas that are the real challenge to better management and superior outcomes. A new approach that can break through this log jam will be a truly game-changing solution.

Such a solution must be able to remedy the primary drivers of increasing costs and sub-par medical outcomes in workers compensation, which include:

  • The growing epidemic of opioids for the treatment of pain, which can — when used inappropriately — lead to long-term disability, negative health outcomes, and fraud and abuse. A study by Accident Fund Holdings and Johns Hopkins University found that the presence of long-acting opioids resulted in claims almost 3.9 times more likely to cost more than $100,000 than a claim without any prescriptions; claims with short-acting opioids were 1.76 times more likely to have an ultimate claims costs of more than $100,000.
  • Co-morbidities and obesity that raise the cost and complexity of care. The October 2012 National Council on Compensation Insurance Research Brief, “Co-morbidities in Workers' Compensation” found that claims with a co-morbidity diagnosis have about twice the medical costs of other comparable claims.
  • An older workforce is another cost driver. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance's Research Brief, “Workers' Compensation and the Aging Workforce,” claim severity and costs for older workers (45 – 64) is more than 50% higher than for younger employees for both indemnity and medical.
  • Significant variations in care by provider and by state negatively impact outcomes. For example, the Workers Compensation Research Institute's “Prescription Benchmarks, 2nd Edition: Trends and Interstate Comparisons,” July 2011, reports that the average prescription payment in Louisiana was $1,182 for claims that had more than seven days of lost time and at least one prescription, as compared to $330 – $350 in states with the lowest prescription costs.
  • The fragmentation of care management creates waste and poor outcomes. It takes a multitude of different types of medical and service providers to successfully treat an injured worker. Within this maze, the traffic cop is the busy claims adjuster who today may manage an average of 150 claims. This heavy workload makes it hard for the beleaguered adjuster to find the right providers, manage all the connections, and to give claims — especially complex ones — the constant, in-depth oversight needed.
  • The impact of providers can vary widely. Many providers are not experienced in workers' compensation cases — they do not understand the assertive “sports medicine” type of approach that deploys and manages treatment from the inception of the case in order to help achieve a rapid recovery and return to work.

Within this scenario, it's easy for a case to become unnecessarily complicated, dragging on for months and years, ratcheting up not only medical but also indemnity costs.

The Solution
Leaders in workers' compensation recognize that finding and using superior practitioners is the key to getting the best care for injured workers and reducing overall costs. Results in outcomes-based networks have indicated that superior providers can reduce total claims costs by 20%-40%.

If an injured worker sees an experienced and high-performing physician from the beginning, and their treatment plan moves rapidly through an integrated network of outstanding providers who understand workers' compensation objectives, there is a much better chance of an efficient and fast resolution of the injury, return to work, and closure of the claim.

Rapid interventions with the right therapies from the beginning of the case means the injured worker is more likely to recover faster and have a better overall outcome. For example, a recent study published in the medical journal “Spine” found that early physical therapy treatment for low back pain was associated with reduced likelihood of subsequent surgery injections, physician visits, opioid use, and advanced imaging along with a corresponding reduction in related medical costs.

Yet, until now, there has been no solution that enables claims professionals to know which providers deliver the best care, and to consistently connect these providers to injured workers for timely, efficient delivery of superior care for best outcomes.

Now, due to three developments in the industry, that solution is becoming a reality. When this model is deployed throughout a claims management enterprise, payers can experience unparalleled improvements in medical outcomes, reduced overall costs, and increased efficiency.

The three capabilities present in today's marketplace that enable this change are:

  • The ability to develop strong networks of specialty “best-in-class” providers who contribute to all elements of care in workers' compensation, and who receive scrupulous credentialing and consistent quality oversight to ensure an aggressive focus on evidenced-based medicine and fast return-to-work.
  • Advanced analytics of claims data that can now determine which providers generate the best outcomes.
  • Easy-to-use technology that connects this broad range of providers with claims professionals, expediting fast referrals and treatment, overall care coordination and prompt reporting of test and care results. This technology connects these once fragmented players into a virtually integrated care team focused on the injured worker and a common set of objectives.

When these three capabilities are integrated, for the first time in workers' compensation there is a system that brings together the best providers in both primary treatment and ancillary services who are delivering care with aligned goals and shared information to bring about better outcomes with streamlined efficiencies and reduced frictional cost in the system.

The value of this integrated approach to care delivery has been recognized in healthcare for 10 years. At The Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic, care for Medicare patients cost less than the national median, indicating that this approach is successful in not only delivering better outcomes but lower overall costs.

The 2011 Health International McKinsey report, “What It Takes to Make Integrated Care Work,” found that an integrated care model can be implemented in virtually any health system, provided the three elements of multidisciplinary care, a focus on patient segments most likely to have high health care spending, and the ability to create strong virtual partnerships, are present.

How The Integrated Model Works In Workers' Compensation
The following examples illustrate how the integrated model workers within workers' compensation:

  1. A worker with a complex injury to his right leg is immediately referred to an occupational health physician who is experienced in workers' compensation and connected to networks of specialty providers. Based on the nature of the injury, the physician's office is instantly connected to a resource for crutches, transportation for getting back and forth to appointments, and a best-in-class diagnostics provider to provide fast, accurate diagnostic tests. Instead of having to figure out what is needed and arrange for each piece individually, all the components are in place from the beginning of the treatment plan.
  2. As the injured worker receives treatment from an integrated network of specialty providers, not only is the care provided by best-in-class providers but cost savings are maximized by consistently taking advantage of network discounts and preventing leakage.
  3. A patient who has an injury that may be associated with chronic pain is managed aggressively from the beginning of the case, to alleviate pain and optimize recovery with physical therapy and other pain-reducing modalities. Pharmacy management is also aggressive — if an opioid is prescribed it is for a finite period of time and constantly reviewed to ensure that it is still required and that addiction or misuse is not developing. Consequently, the slippery slope to long-term addiction and disability is avoided.
  4. When cases are complex and the injury is serious, all the treatment components that the patient may need are linked together and available when needed. The adjuster no longer wastes time trying to find specialists who are not in the network and who understand workers' compensation objectives, waiting for equipment that doesn't show up or work, or finding experienced clinicians who can coordinate care for challenges, ranging from infusion medical management to home modifications. The injured worker is managed for the duration of the injury, ensuring that their health is protected and that costs do not creep up through benign neglect or lack of oversight.

The best-in-class clinical team does far more than just deliver services — it takes on the role of care coordinator for the entire case: working with the hospital team before the injured workers is discharged to put in place a continuous care plan, ensuring that the right equipment is actually ordered and working and that it's there when needed and removed when it's no longer useful, and keeping continuous oversight of complex and long-term claims years after the injury so that these long-tail claims stay on track.

Interconnectivity between the physician, the specialty providers, and ancillary services like equipment, transportation, and translation keeps the team informed and linked so that reporting, communication and referrals are seamless, smooth and timely. For example, if a patient needs a knee brace to return to work that can only be fitted in the doctor's office, the transportation to the physician's office is arranged through the home care provider and the correct brace is waiting in the doctor's office when he arrives.

Enterprise-Wide Deployment Delivers Highest Value
The greatest value of the integrated medical model will be in its applications throughout a claims management enterprise when:

  • High performing physicians drive each case.
  • Best-in-class specialists are immediately available at the onset of each case, and with every development in the injured worker's condition.
  • Aggressive and appropriate care moves the injured worker toward recovery, avoiding pitfalls such as prescription drug dependence, long-term disability, and unnecessary treatments and costs that result in no improvement.
  • Providers are linked and connected with technology to know exactly what the injured worker needs and to make sure that all connections are met and made.

When this scenario is multiplied for every claimant that a payer has, the results in improved outcomes, reduced overall costs, and improved efficiencies are truly transformational. The integrated care management model in workers' compensation will be a game-changing phenomenon that will exponentially improve results throughout the entire system.

The Most Dangerous Place In The World

One Friday afternoon three years ago, Harvard Professor Ashish K. Jha found out his father had been taken to “one of the most dangerous places in the world.” Knowing as I do the energetic and courageous Professor Jha, I pictured a more senior version of him sky diving or climbing Mt. Katahdin. Unfortunately, the reality was far more banal, though still dangerous — Dr. Jha's father was taken to an American hospital.

The good news is Dr. Jha's father made a full recovery after only a few days in the hospital. The bad news: at least three potentially harmful errors occurred during those days. “On Saturday afternoon, he was given an infusion of a medicine intended for another patient — an infusion that was stopped only after I insisted that the nurse double-check the order,” recounts Dr. Jha. “After she realized the error, she tried to reassure me by saying, 'Don't worry, this happens all the time.'”

Indeed, Dr. Jha agrees this “happens all the time,” but it's not reassuring to him at all. In addition to being a concerned son, the professor is an expert in patient safety. He knew only too well the dangers his father faced — the legions of rampant errors, accidents and infections in hospitals throughout the United States.

The safety problem is an open secret among people in the health care industry. “When I tell this story, most of my colleagues shake their heads, but they are rarely surprised. We have come to expect such failures as a routine part of health care,” says Dr. Jha. The statistics are staggering. Each year, one in four people admitted to a hospital suffer some form of harm, and more than 500 patients per day die.

Dr. Jha has three recommendations. First, he calls for a better approach for tracking harm in the hospital. For a variety of reasons, this is not as easy as it should be.

Second, he says that hospitals need to feel the financial consequences of providing unsafe care. “A large proportion of hospitals have not adopted cheap and easy interventions that substantially reduce harm,” he points out.

Why is this? For one thing, the financial incentives aren't there. Most hospitals get paid for all the work they do, regardless of whether it helped or harmed the patient. The more they do, the more they make. There have been efforts to address this nonsensical financing system by paying hospitals for achieving the right outcomes for patients, including in the Affordable Care Act. But a recent study by Catalyst for Payment Reform found that only 11 percent of payments to hospitals or doctors are in any way dependent on good quality or safety.

Professor Jha's third recommendation is to create accountability for patient safety: “Senior health care leaders have to feel that their jobs depend on delivering safe care.” I would add another level of accountability implied but not stated in this recommendation: accountability to the American public. Hospital performance data should be publicly available to consumers, so we can choose doctors and hospitals with the best records. Hospitals that fail should lose market share. Last year, my organization, The Leapfrog Group, initiated one such effort, the Hospital Safety Score, a letter grade rating the safety of 2600 hospitals, which Dr. Jha advises us on. The Score is available to the public for free on our website or as an app, and it holds promise for driving a new market for safe care.

The Hospital Safety Score is useful to consult before you or your family members are admitted. But what should you do when you're already in the hospital and worried sick? Every hospital inpatient in America should navigate right now to this just-published AARP Magazine article and its virtual hospital room. The magazine noted features used in safer hospitals that all of us should look for in our own hospital. Among them:

  • readily available faucets with infrared lights that remind people entering the room to wash their hands when they see a patient;
  • IV poles, bed rails and faucets made with copper alloys, which prevents transmission of germs;
  • sensors that alert nurses when patients are attempting to get out of bed;
  • linen closets designed so staff can replenish supplies without having to enter the patient's room, which minimizes the spread of infection and disruption of the patient's rest.

The article also notes how safer hospitals use electronic systems for managing prescriptions — the best known way to prevent the kind of error Dr. Jha encountered during his father's hospital stay.

No doubt hospital leaders will read the AARP coverage without much surprise; all of this is well-known among clinicians and taught and studied throughout the health sciences. The premier textbook on patient safety advises most of what AARP found in its observations of excellent hospitals. Yet, too many hospitals still don't have the right precautions in place, and most consumers don't know to look for them. Until families make it clear to hospitals that safety matters to us, none of us, not even Harvard professors, can depend on safety when the ambulance arrives.

This article first appeared on Forbes.com.