MedCity Influencers

Useless catheters (but they make hospitalists happy)

So just to make it clear for patients: hospital staff often place catheters for their own convenience or because it’s standard procedure, and the result for the patient is more discomfort, infections, and longer stays. Meanwhile doctors are clueless about what’s going on. This is a good example of an area where an advocate can ask whether a catheter is needed and –once placed– when it can be removed.

I enjoy reading Today’s Hospitalist because it provides a real-world view into what goes on in hospitals. The monthly magazine is aimed at hospitalists practicing in community settings and deals with issues such as medical errors, managing relationships, workloads, and billing.

Some of the things I read about that occur in a hospital are alarming –but overall I think it’s best to confront reality. (It certainly reinforces my view that any hospitalized patient should bring along an advocate, preferably an MD).

A couple articles in the current edition caught my eye. The first was a news brief on preventing urinary tract infections. It reported on a meta-analysis that showed that reminders and stop orders could cut catheterization-related infections by more than half and length of catheterization by more than one-third. From the Briefs page:

[Reminders] translated to 2.61 fewer days that patients were catherized.

According to the study, many catheters aren’t necessary, and physicians weren’t aware of how long catheters remain in place.

So just to make it clear for patients: hospital staff often place catheters for their own convenience or because it’s standard procedure, and the result for the patient is more discomfort, infections, and longer stays. Meanwhile doctors are clueless about what’s going on. This is a good example of an area where an advocate can ask whether a catheter is needed and –once placed– when it can be removed.

A patient could be forgiven for expecting that catheters would only be placed when needed and that someone was paying attention to when they should be removed.

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