A Plan to Reduce Preventable Medical Errors

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There is now a national plan to reduce the dangerously high number of preventable medical errors patients suffer from every day.  But will it be followed?

Preventable medical errors are reportedly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of patients each year, with many more suffering catastrophic, life-changing injuries.  There are estimates that preventable medical errors kill 250,000 men, women and children in the United States alone.

Serious Medical Errors that are Preventable

Some of the most common and deadliest examples of medical mistakes that should have been avoided include:

  • Medication mistakes – wrong dosage, wrong medication
  • Surgical errors – surgery on the wrong part of the body, wrong procedure
  • Misdiagnosis – wrong diagnosis, delayed diagnosis
  • Errors made in the emergency room – delay in proper treatment

Such mistakes made during medical treatment can turn a minor affliction into a life-threatening condition, as well as further and needlessly exacerbate an already serious but treatable illness.

In hospitals, medical treatment typically involves a group of healthcare providers.  So when a medical error is made, there may be a chain of negligent actions behind it. Often times hospital administrators or organizational protocols – stated or simply understood - are to blame.

And now a leading national healthcare safety organization has published a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan to help reduce medical errors that seriously harm hospital patients.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, an independent and nonprofit organization, has a straightforward mission: improve health and healthcare worldwide. In September, it released its plan to address the scourge of preventable medical errors.

Titled “Safer Together: A National Action Plan to Advance Patient Safety,” it’s a blueprint targeted toward healthcare organizations, healthcare leaders, and healthcare associations, and is a collaborative product of nearly 30 federal agencies and other patient safety experts.

Hospital Administrations and Medical Mistakes

Rather than focus on the individual actions – such as a misdiagnosis – the action plan is a top-down document offering recommendations that hospitals and healthcare systems implement organization-wide that will improve patient safety.

The plan to protect patients from medical errors centers on four main points of emphasis:

  • Culture and leadership of a healthcare organization
  • Engagement with patients and families
  • Safety of the workforce
  • Learning systems

All of these areas that can help reduce preventable medical errors are ultimately the responsibility of executives and administrators.

The first key area of the plan notes the importance of establishing patient safety as a core value of any hospital.  A culture of safety must continually be promoted to healthcare providers and other staff members. Hospitals must foster transparency when mistakes are made – shared with medical professionals and patients as well.

The plan’s second area of emphasis for improving patient safety calls for better communication and engagement with patients and their families. One example: when a preventable error does occur, be open with those harmed about what happened and why.  And then internally address those issues.

Third, hospitals should ensure the mental and physical well-being of its staff.  Physician burnout, caused by an inappropriate level of stress, is a known cause of medical errors.  And now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors are being pushed to their limits.

And finally, doctors and nurses should learn from their mistakes, or the mistakes of others. This national action plan calls for hospitals to build internal learning systems that incorporate patient feedback and other tools that help implement changes when a serious medical error is made. This may help avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Unfortunately, hospitals are often not open and transparent about mistakes made during patient care. Doctors, too, are often reluctant to admit their mistakes, especially when patients suffer dire harm.

If you lost a loved one while under medical care and you suspect a preventable error was made, speak with a medical malpractice lawyer, who is experienced in conducting detailed investigations and bringing all responsible parties to account.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles September 29, 2020

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