No more excuses — 6 steps to take to eliminate medical errors

It's no secret that medical errors are a deadly problem in the healthcare industry — a recent study found medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 250,000 people each year. Yet we as a nation are "excusing this terrible national tragedy" instead of moving "with the alacrity of a SWAT team storming a burning building," according to a recent Health Affairs blog post.

The article's author, Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, shared six measures that can push the nation into taking action on eliminating medical errors.

1. Demand local health system leadership. Dr. Feinstein urged hospital boards, management and front-line supervisors to vigorously focus on the nine leading causes of death in healthcare: adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, patient falls, obstetric adverse events, pressure ulcers, surgical site infections, preventable blood clots and ventilator-associated pneumonia. Studies and pilot programs have shown that progress and improvement is possible, but "none of this happens without committed leadership," she wrote.

2. Reward improvement efforts. The people within the industry who are working daily to deliver safe care to patients should be recognized and rewarded for their efforts to encourage them to continue in their quest, according to Dr. Feinstein.

3. Improve education and training. "The role of education and ongoing training and coaching in safety science and quality engineering techniques should be given high priority in health professions schools," Dr. Feinstein wrote, noting those topics are not currently given the weight they deserve during medical training.

4. Make data transparent. Data on care quality and infection rates abound, and health departments and insurance companies should give the public or their customers that information, according to Dr. Feinstein. "The public needs to know which facilities are the safest," she wrote.

5. Implement established best practices. Providers have already found proven ways to reduce certain deadly medical issues like blood clots or adverse obstetric events, and, as Dr. Feinstein, said, "We clan learn from past successes."

6. Own the problem. The only way to fix the medical error problem is at the point of care, meaning local healthcare workers need to take ownership of the problem and respond accordingly.

"We know how to eliminate medical errors. We just haven't shown the conviction and courage to do it," Dr. Feinstein concluded.

More articles on medical errors:
Dare to believe...That all medical errors and injuries are preventable
2 newborn misidentification events occur every day in Pennsylvania
Preventable medical errors are on the decline — 4 possible reasons why

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