doctors

Vaughn Bullfinch

For decades, rural parts of the Northwest have found it difficult to lure doctors to small towns. Community leaders in Yakima, WA went so far as to found a small medical school to train doctors to practice in these underserved areas. The Pacific Northwest University opened in 2006. But there is a problem. Small towns throughout the region just don’t have enough residency programs. And that means many of these doctors-in-training may move away. 

John Ryan

About 30 times a year, a surgery patient in Washington state has a sponge or surgical instrument left inside them. It’s one of the most commonly reported medical mistakes.

Photo courtesy Dept. of Health and Human Services

About one out of five Medicare patients returns to the hospital within a month after being discharged. Those readmissions are often preventable. As Ruby de Luna reports, starting in October, Medicare will penalize hospitals with high readmission rates.

The new policy is part of the national health care law to reduce hospital readmissions. The goal is to reduce cost and improve patient care.

Dr. Nancy Fisher is Chief Medical Officer with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for Region 10. She says three-quarters of these readmissions are preventable.

It happens more than 200,000 times a year in doctor’s offices throughout Washington. An interpreter is called in to help bridge a language barrier between the physician and patient. Soon though, that interpreter may join the appointment by phone or even video. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins explains.