Viewpoint: To reduce medical errors, bring in outside experts

About 40 percent of primary and outpatient care patients are harmed by medical errors worldwide, according to a September 2019 report from the World Health Organization. This rate could be lowered if the healthcare industry identified the root causes of these errors and allowed others to lead — not just medical professionals, Kathleen Sutcliffe, PhD, a professor of medicine and business at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, wrote in an op-ed for Time

Medical professionals' refusal to allow for expertise and innovation from other professions is to blame for the lack of improvement in medical error rates, according to Dr. Sutcliffe. She added that patient safety was taken over by healthcare administrators who typically blame those further down the organizational ladder for errors, instead of examining inherent flaws in the organization and system.

Dr. Sutcliffe calls efforts like safety checklists and hand-sanitizing stations localized and weak. Organizations need innovations aimed at addressing larger hazards tied to confusion and error-inducing technology, according to Dr. Sutcliffe.

Healthcare organizations should approach patient safety with a focus on what lessons can be learned from successes, instead of failures or mistakes, Dr. Sutcliffe wrote.

Medical errors have multiple root causes and require multidisciplinary approaches to find solutions. Experts with perspectives outside of medicine should be welcomed to any serious discussion on how to improve patient safety, according to Dr. Sutcliffe.

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