Thursday, 26 September 2013

In search of immortality

The media screams out relentlessly on excess deaths, avoidable deaths, harm, on how many lives can be saved if healthcare did this, that or the other right. In fairly cynical mood I thought, if I added up all the number of lives the media says we could save the people in UK could become immortal. Thus started my quest for immortality.

Here is the list and total of how many lives the media thinks healthcare can save.

Preventable DVT deaths 25000
Kidney function tests 42000
Addiction deaths 150000
Child deaths 2000
 Learning disability 1200
Cancer deaths 11500
 Maternal deaths 50
Not taking tamoxifen 500
Dehydration in the elderly 130
10  Wrong medication deaths 11
11  Sepsis 15000
12  Flu jab 7000
13  Trauma admissions in hospital 600
Total  254991

I am sure you the reader can add a few of your own categories to this list.

The total number of people dying every year in UK 428367. If we can save 254991 that means we will be 60% of our way to making UK immortal.Obviously there are undefined overlaps between the categories and I sure double or triple or multiple counting makes all that number attract attention.

Let us get a little real now. No one thinks they are going to to be immortal. Everyone knows there is avoidable/preventable mortality in healthcare delivery. The point is to try to admit, then identify avoidable deaths, followed by measures to reduce avoidable deaths to zero or awfully close to zero.

Would that be possible? 

The above media based list includes untimely or early deaths due to life style and behavioral choices. While solving that would also be possible, I am not talking about that. I am talking about deaths that can be avoided by delivering the healthcare in a way that we intended it to be delivered. 

United Kingdom has an amenable mortality of 102 per 100000 population (which works out to an approximate 65000 people) compared to France's 64 per 100000. It seems like a 40% reduction in amenable mortality should be possible. Since France's 64/100000 mortality is also amenable to healthcare it means we will have a lot of smart work to do for quite some time to come.

Can it be done?

We have already set the background by talking about HSMRs as an indicator, we have discussed the broad ideas around methodology in Hemadri's Four Fundamentals (, the issue of learning facts yet practising opinion and how to over come it in Letter to my nieces (

The current argument in UK is on how to actually identify the avoidable deaths. Individual case note reviews is thought to be the method. It may well be. There is a specific way of performing these individual case note reviews. 

Watch this space. The blog with some ideas on performing case note reviews will be here soon.

The quest for immortality - no that does not continue. The quest for eliminating avoidable deaths continues.................................


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