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When Medical Complications Arise, Being Proactive Pays Off

During the health care debate there was a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of aggressive health care. Some people believe that preventative care is the most effective - and cost-efficient - way to treat patients, and that aggressive treatment can do more harm than good.

Make no mistake, however: swift decisions to take action can be extremely beneficial for a patient who develops complications after surgery. Indeed, failure to take proper action can constitute medical malpractice.

Pauline Chen, a doctor who writes for the New York Times, experienced the power of aggressive treatment first-hand. While on rounds during training, she discovered a patient who had an enlarged abdomen following a liver transplant. Although she was nervous about telling the head surgeon about the new complication, she did.

His reaction was surprising. Instead of being upset about a possible surgical errors, he simply told her to get the patient back into the operating room.

Chen's experience drives home the importance of swift and aggressive treatment of complications. Such action can be the difference between life and death.

A study done by University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago researchers compared the insurance claims of all patients who had complications and their surgical outcomes at hospitals that are considered aggressive and at hospitals that are considered nonaggressive. They found that those patients cared for at the aggressive hospitals were far more likely to have favorable outcomes and survive complications.

An even better case for aggressive care may be to compare the failure to rescue rates of hospitals. Failure to rescue correlates with the intensity of care provided by a hospital: the more aggressive the care, the lower the failure to rescue rate is.

Although preventative care is appropriate in some cases, especially if no prior medical conditions exist, aggressive care can be the difference between life and death when medical complications arise.

Source: "How Aggressive Is Your Hospital?" New York Times, 2-3-11

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