Friday, October 12, 2012

Medical Errors

Medical errors go largely unnoticed, and they can kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets a week, or 98,000 people a year. 

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal that was written by a surgeon, the same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and the medical community hardly ever learns from them.  

One problem is that many health care officials overlook the mistakes their colleagues make. Also, between 20 and 30 percent of all tests, procedures and medications are unnecessary, and as often as 40 times a week the wrong body part is operated on by surgeons. Medical errors would be the country’s sixth leading cause of death if they were considered a disease.  

According to the author, medical mistakes can be decreased with five reforms, which are: 

·         Online Dashboards
·         Safety Culture Scores
·         Cameras
·         Open Notes
·         No More Gagging 

For change to start taking place, hospitals should have an informational “dashboard” available online. It should include rates for surgical complications, errors, infection and readmissions. Patient satisfaction scores from surveys should also be included, as well as the hospital’s annual volume for the type of surgeries it performs.  

Safety culture scores are another way to help with medical errors. If a hospital finds out what their employees think of their teamwork, the results can affect certain outcomes. If the teamwork is bad, infection rates and patient outcomes can be negatively affected. Safe care comes from good teamwork.

If cameras were used more often in the health care industry, fewer mistakes would happen. Not only could videos of procedures help future doctors see how it should correctly be done, it can also be used as peer-based quality improvement for certain procedures. It has been researched that doctors perform better when they know that someone will be checking their work, according to the article. 

If patients were able to review the notes their doctor has written about them and their symptoms, they would have a chance to correct mistakes or add something they forgot. At Harvard and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, open notes are being used by doctors, and both patients and doctors find it very helpful. 

Increasingly, patients are being asked to sign gag orders when they check in to see doctors. These gag orders state that the patient must promise to not say anything negative about their physician, whether it’s online or somewhere else.

Medical mistakes should be talked about, not forgotten about. With more transparency in the medical field, along with accountability, medical mistakes can be decreased, thus making health care more safe.  

Snyder and Wenner, P.C.

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