A new documentary appearing on HBO is now shedding light on a pervasive public healthcare crisis: medical error. The documentary, entitled Bleed Out, follows the documentarian, Steve Burrows, on a personal journey through his mother Judie’s debilitating illness. The movie follows a staggering 10-year saga through what HBO’s website calls “an endless cycle of medical bills, emergency-room visits and insurance-company red tape.”
Burrows combines personal footage with interviews with medical malpractice experts like Dr. Marty Makary, whose Surgical Safety Checklist was the basis for Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. Dr. Makary’s latest book, The Price We Pay, investigates the roots of America’s current healthcare bubble, which has skyrocketed prices while not necessarily improving the quality of care. Though at time of writing this documentary has not yet been released, the thesis of Burrows’ documentary seems concerned with this healthcare bubble, medical error, and how both negatively affected his own experience caring for his mother.
Something to have on your radar
This documentary should be on the radar for any medical practitioners who are interested in the relationship between healthcare and insurance industries. That there is a correlative relationship between the rise of medical malpractice cases and the increase of healthcare and insurance prices is well-documented. The nature of that link, however, still garners a lot of speculation. On the one hand you have doctors who, fearing medical malpractice claims, tend to order too many tests to protect themselves and thus drive up prices. On the other, you have an unhealthy population that overuses healthcare, to the detriment both of their premiums and to the fluidity of service that insurance providers can offer. More and more insurance pays out each year. Much red tape ensues.
Whatever the source of the problem, Burrows claims that the system is broken, and many agree. His claims about medical error being the third leading cause of death in the U.S. is substantiated by Dr. Makary’s research, at least as of 2016. That makes medical error the biggest public health issue after heart disease and cancer. The medical errors in question, according the NPR, “range from surgical complications that go unrecognized to mix-ups with the doses or types of medications patients receive.” This is ground-level, day-to-day errors that are in question—an alarming fact that deserves attention.
Bleed Out was released in early January, and can be streamed on HBONow or HBO Go. You can also watch it on demand until January 21st if you have a cable subscription that includes HBO. You can view the trailer here.