Yesterday we discussed a new report from the AARP that reminded its members of the prevalence of medical errors and the surprisingly large number of patients who are hurt while inside a hospital. Each Illinois medical malpractice attorney at our firm appreciates that statistics are rolled out which emphasize the scope of these errors on a continuing basis. It is easy for community members to get desensitized to the seemingly endless studies that spell out the prevalence of medical malpractice. At the same time, it is understandable that many patients feel that the problem is out of their hands. Some suggest that these injury rates are simply part of the process and that there is little anyone can do to make care safer for everyone.
This complacency is misplaced. There are very clear steps that can be taken to make hospitals safer and prevent errors.
The AARP bulletin highlights how there are clear ways to try to tackle safety concerns. One basic problem is the growing complexity of medical care and the fact that proper organizational systems have not been implemented to keep pace. One surgeon who is a proponent of increased used of medical checklists explained that “We now have 13,600 diseases, 6,000 drugs, 4,000 medical and surgical procedures…we have not paid attention to the nuts and bolts of what’s required to manage complexity.”
The doctor believes that checklists are at the heart of basic changes to eliminate errors by properly accounting for human mistakes. The concept behind the checklist is straightforward: medical experts physically check off certain steps throughout a medical process to ensure that no corners are cut. This sometimes seems rudimentary and unnecessary, because is most cases the checking of the box will be nothing more than additional paperwork. Yet, the checklist is intended to act as a reminder only in the situations where a basic mistake is almost made. So long as it helps prevent some errors, then the redundancy in other cases is acceptable. The concept of checklists has been used for quite some time in the aviation process. Pilots understand how to fly a plane (just like surgeons know how to perform certain procedures). However, the checklist is a safety buffer that prevents those certain occasions when a basic lapse might have taken place as a result of human fallibility.
Beyond checklists, our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers appreciate that different efforts have been tried in different places. It is important for the successful strategies to be copied and rolled out in all local medical facilities. For example, another positive approach is to be more open about errors. Public reporting of statistics like infections rates put a real face on the problems in certain facilities and often leads to changes to improve those stats. The Obama administration has also focused increasing attention on the many ways that can actually be done to make hospitals safer, prevent medical malpractice, and save lives. Last year the administration explained that $1 billion would be targeted on funding hospital safety measures. It is hoped that the increased focus on safety and prevention programs will eliminate about 40% of all medical errors. It is an ambitious goal but a reminder that the bar should always be set high.
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