Houston Methodist Hospital, located at 6565 Fannin Street, Houston, Texas 77030, in the Texas Medical Center, is the flagship institution in the Houston Methodist system.
The 2,502-bed hospital describes itself as having six multidisciplinary centers of excellence, including the DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, J.C. Walter, Jr. Transplant Center, Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Cancer Center, Neurological Institute, Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders.
In addition to offering a range of other medical specialties, Houston Methodist Hospital has a Level III trauma center and a Comprehensive Stroke Center.
A recent advertising campaign says that Houston Methodist Hospital is “The difference between practicing medicine and leading it.” Even though this hospital has some excellent healthcare providers, in my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, there are opportunities for patients to fall through the cracks by the sheer size and teaching mission of this hospital.
The risks of teaching hospitals
A teaching or academic hospital generally refers to an institution that conducts daily, 24/7 educational activities for medical students and physicians who are still under training.
While this educational mission is certainly important for the training of future healthcare providers, it also means that a significant part of the medical care provided to patients at training hospitals, like Houston Methodist Hospital, is provided by doctors who are not fully trained. Learning the terms used to describe the different levels of training is important, in my opinion, for patients.
A “resident” is a physician who has completed medical school, but is still in a residency, or apprenticeship-style training to learn a specialty. A “fellow” physician has completed both medical school and a residency, but is working on additional subspecialty training. An “attending” is a fully-trained physician who also serves as a faculty member, supervising the care provided by residents and fellows.
In speaking with many clients who received care at teaching hospitals, most of them did not understand the significant difference in the competence and experience of these different types of doctors, which also causes me believe that little effort was made at the hospital to explain it to patients and family members.
In numerous cases, I have represented patients who were seen in the emergency room of an academic hospital, like Houston Methodist Hospital, only by a resident physician a year or two out of medical school. In many cases, an inexperienced resident physician misdiagnoses the patient’s serious medical condition as something rather benign or harmless, is not properly supervised by an attending, discharges the patient, leading to a severe and permanent injury.
When you seek care at a teaching hospital, be aware of the different types of physicians that may be involved in the healthcare team. If you have concerns about incompetent or inadequate treatment, ask or insist to be evaluated by an attending physician. In addition, you have the right to revoke your consent to be seen by resident or fellow physicians at all.
Quality of care issues at Houston Methodist Hospital
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conduct on-site inspections and surveys of accredited hospitals, like Houston Methodist Hospital. When surveyors identify deficiencies, they issue violations to the hospital.
On May 20, 2014, a Medicare/Medicaid surveyor issued two violations to Houston Methodist Hospital.
Both of the violations dealt with the hospital mishandling patient grievances.
For the first violation, the Medicare/Medicaid surveyor found that a grievance filed by a patient was not fully investigated in a timely matter, and the hospital failed to provide written follow-up regarding the progress of the investigation. The patient at issue had filed a grievance related to both billing and quality of care issues. The patient alleged that she was told she would receive a course of treatment and a team of doctors, but alleged that she received neither.
The second violation arose from a patient complaint about an infiltrated intravenous (IV) line, how long it took to get a new IV started, and not receiving any medications for pain control.
As a former hospital administrator, I know that grievances are an important tool that provide hospital leadership an opportunity to learn about quality of care issues and improve patient safety.
We are here to help
Even at well-known and respected hospitals, like Houston Methodist Hospital, medical mistakes and malpractice occur. If this happens to you or a loved one, call the experienced medical negligence and wrongful death attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.
Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He represents patients and family members in medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. Martindale Hubbell recognized him with the prestigious AV rating, and, in 2017, H Texas magazine named him as one of Houston’s top lawyers.