What We're Reading: Providers Brace for Impact of Hurricane Matthew

What we’re reading, October 7, 2016: providers brace for Hurricane Matthew; lead exposure in children has dropped; and most physicians would not apologize to their patient after a mistake.

Healthcare providers in the Southeast are preparing for the impact of Matthew, the Category 3 hurricane due to make landfall today. Amidst dire warnings of potentially devastating winds and storm surges, many hospitals are stocking up on supplies, preparing for an influx of patients, and canceling elective appointments. However, other hospitals on vulnerable, flood-prone barrier islands are evacuating patients and all but a handful of employees. Matthew already battered Haiti while it was a Category 4 storm, killing at least 271 people; officials fear it could worsen the cholera epidemic there.

Data released by the CDC this week indicate that lead exposure in children has fallen significantly, but racial disparities persist. From 1988-1994 to 2007-2014, the rate of children age 1 to 5 with elevated blood lead levels had dropped from 25.6% to 1.9%. However, the data for 2007-2014 show that black children (4.0%) were twice as likely as white children (1.9%) and more than 3 times as likely as Hispanic children (1.1%) to have high levels of lead in their blood. Because lead paint was outlawed in 1978, children at or below the poverty line living in older housing are most at risk of lead exposure.

A survey of primary care physicians found that more than half would not apologize to a patient after making a mistake that put the patient’s health at risk. In hypothetical situations of delayed care or system breakdown, 53.1% and 61.4% of physicians, respectively, said they would offer no disclosure whatsoever. The rest were split between full disclosure (taking personal responsibility) and partial disclosure (blaming the system). Surprisingly, the perceived seriousness of the error and the extent to which the respondents felt responsible for it were likely to predict the level of disclosure, not the anticipation of a lawsuit.