Hospitals should focus on patient safety, not perks

I was saddened to read "Patient perks: Hospitals sweeten the pot with made-to-order meals, private rooms and Wi-Fi." (Dec. 2.) In the article you noted that local hospitals are spending millions of dollars on "house musicians and round-the clock room-service meals ... 32-inch flat-screen televisions, safes, Wi-Fi ... comfort foods like milkshakes ... entertainment centers," etc.

More than 10 years ago, the Institute of Medicine issued a report, "To Err Is Human," which estimated that between 48,000 and 96,000 Americans die each year in hospitals from medical mistakes. Incredibly, an article in last week's New England Journal of Medicine reported a study of 10 hospitals in North Carolina from January 2002 through December 2007 which concluded: "We found that harms remain common, with little evidence of widespread improvement."

A high-quality 21st-century hospital should have computerized physician order entry, bar-code medication administration and electronic medical records. Each of these has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of medical mistakes. How about a follow-up article listing which of the local hospitals, with all of the wonderful patient amenities, have 21st-century systems in place to prevent medical mistakes?

Suzanne Cohn, Baltimore

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