The Wrong Way to Attack Gingrich

Written by Stanley Goldfarb on Wednesday November 30, 2011

The American Spectator has decided to attack Newt Gingrich’s position on healthcare because he once praised the work of Dr. Donald Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement. I must say, as someone who has pretty consistently thought that Obamacare was a terrible way to go about reforming our healthcare system, that the criticism by David Catron is ridiculous.

It would be like criticizing Stephen Chu’s Nobel Prize in Physics for laser cooling and trapping of atoms because he is a terrible venture capitalist in energy companies. True and unrelated!

Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement has done terrific work in outlining approaches to, as the name implies, improving healthcare. They typically focus on patient safety issues, ways of using data to improve outcomes, how to improve patient-doctor communication, etc. If Newt Gingrich supports this sort of thing, more power to him. To attack Dr. Berwick’s ideas about centralized control of the health care system is completely justifiable. To attack quality improvement efforts his organization has pioneered because one does not like his politics is execrable.

The other absurdity of Catron’s article is to attack Gingrich for praising the landmark report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences on the frequency of medical errors. This report has been instrumental in developing a culture of patient safety in America’s hospitals and physician offices. The results of decreasing blood stream infections, for example, has been one terrific outcome of the report. True there has been controversy over the numbers of patient deaths that the Institute of Medicine study reported but even if they exaggerated by 75%, it would still be horrible.

There are those that are clearly bent on damaging Gingrich. There may be very good reasons to do so but this article by Catron provides none.