Lack of Safety Culture Tied to Medical Errors

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for surgery3.jpgAccording to a new, limited study, how little a hospital values patient safety can impact the number of errors resulting from a surgical procedure.

The research, recently published on the website of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, concluded that the better a hospital’s “culture of safety,” the less likely its patients would suffer from surgical site infections following colon operations.

Factors Leading to Surgical Infections

The researchers measured 12 safety culture factors at seven Minnesota hospitals and found that 10 factors directly affected the rate of colon surgical site infections, including:

· Overall perceptions of patient safety

· Teamwork between healthcare providers

· Communication about medical errors

· Supervisors’ actions promoting patient safety

The better the surgical teams at the hospitals were at these factors, the less risk the researchers found for post-op infections. Good teamwork was cited as having the highest positive impact in some of the hospitals.

Rates for infections after a colon operation went as high as 30 percent for one hospital in the study, with average infection rate for all facilities at 11 percent.

At about the same time as this study went public, the National Patient Safety Foundation released its own report on medical errors, which held similar conclusions. The not-for-profit organization convened a panel of medical experts to assess the state of patient safety in the United States today.

Cultural Steps to Improve Patient Safety

The report urged a greater emphasis be placed on improving patient safety over the next 15 years and offered recommendations to achieve this goal:

· Ensure that leaders establish and sustain a safety culture

· Create centralized and coordinated oversight of patient safety

· Ensure that technology is safe for patients

While serious, preventable medical errors are at times the result of one specific act, it’s not always that straightforward. An institution’s overall careless approach toward safety can also cause its patients great harm.

If you or a family member suffered from a catastrophic medical mistake, an attorney who represents victims of medical malpractice can investigate to determine all those responsible and hold them accountable.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.