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Facebook Page Gathers Stories of Medical Harm

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 24, 2012

As if Facebook didn't grab enough headlines on Wall Street this week, the social media forum is also making healthcare news that should prompt any leader to pay close attention.

ProPublica, the two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning newsroom that collaborates with other media outlets for investigative journalism, a few days ago launched its Facebook "Patient Harm Community."

People can sign up and post a healthcare horror story in graphic detail. Journalists are joining to find patients in their communities who have details to share. There's a special "Files" page entitled "What to do if you've been harmed," which instructs patients on where and how to lodge complaints about doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Even some healthcare providers are weighing in.

ProPublica's Marshall Allen, who uncovered systemic poor quality in Nevada hospitals for a 2010 series in the Las Vegas Sun called Do No Harm, and himself a Pulitzer finalist, explains what prompted the Facebook venture.

For starters, he says, the one million people—a staggering number—who suffer injuries, infections, and errors in healthcare facilities across the country each year had very few places to turn for advice, until now.

"Over the years, I've talked to scores of patients who have been harmed while undergoing medical care, and the one thing that always struck me is the fact they feel so alone," he says.

"When they suffer this type of harm, they complain to doctors and hospital officials and regulators, but they often don't feel that they're being listened to.

"I wanted to find a way to give these folks an opportunity to talk to one another, offer advice, encouragement, and comfort, and get questions answered. A lot of them are at different stages of the process of working through the things that happened to them."

Healthcare professionals especially should pay attention to what's said on this site, he says, because it might illuminate what a patient with a bad episode of care really goes through. They should join in the conversation.

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2 comments on "Facebook Page Gathers Stories of Medical Harm"


Johneric Pate (5/29/2012 at 2:29 PM)
I agree with Joleen's comment.Myself and thousands of other patients have been harmed by "known" faulty plastic "temporary" pancreas and bile duct stents.These stents were proven to kill both dogs and pigs during FDA clinical trials.Why then use them in people?FDAclinicaltrials.gov has also done animal trials on biodegradeable pancreas/bile duct stents because"plastic stents have to be removed in a second ERCP."All research shows that after a 1st or 2nd stenting the patient will need surgery to correct the problem.I have had 6 ERCP's and NO surgery yet even with over 5 referrals saying that i need surgery to correct the problem.I was informed by many doctors/surgeon's that i need to leave the country to have surgery.Why leave to another country(something in which i can not afford)when the stent [INVALID]ions were here in the U.S.?The answer lies somewhere in between the lobbyist,speialist(doctors)who take kick backs from these faulty stents,and people in congress who take money form lobbyist for campaign incentives.The 510(k)process is a per(fact)example of this.As i die slowly because my liver and kidney's are failing from these faulty stents(in which a liver surgeon informed me that i never needed to begin with)thousands of other patients will meet their demise until something is done to correct the corruption.

Joleen Chambers (5/25/2012 at 9:45 AM)
It is easy for a consumer to pick out a good vacuum cleaner thanks to Consumer Reports-not so- for implanted medical devices! The IOM (Institute of Medicine) stated 7/29/11 that the FDA 510(k)method of clearing implanted medical devices (ICD's, surgical mesh, stents, hips, knees) is fatally flawed and should be scrapped. Yet the practice continues because the industry is so profitable and politically powerful. Patient harm (as a result of failed devices) in it's wake is fueled by poor federal public policy that does not require UDI (unique device identifiers) or post-market follow-up.