A startling statistic has been peppering recent media coverage related to healthcare. Every week, medical errors kill enough American patients to fill four jumbo-sized jets. Yet when planes crash, these incidents make headlines. The vast majority of fatal medical errors resulting from hospital negligence and other preventable causes pass by unnoticed by all but the victims’ loved ones.
The fact that the same kinds of preventable medical errors occur again and again is unacceptable. What can patients, healthcare providers, regulators and the public at large do about this critical safety issue? Surgeon Marty Makary argues that when hospitals are compelled to become more transparent and more accountable, the rate of medical errors which occur daily across the nation will drop.
Too often a culture of silence influences the operations of the healthcare industry. Out of fear, respect or self-protection, physicians and nursing staff often remain quiet as medical errors occur, as unsafe care practices are repeated and as unfit professionals continue to attend to patients. When patient safety and quality of care issues become increasingly transparent, medical error rates tend to decline.
When professionals are encouraged to report and learn from each other’s mistakes, the same kinds of mistakes do not tend to be repeated. Human error is present in every profession. Increased transparency and accountability within the healthcare profession will not end human error. However, these factors will help to lessen the prevalence of preventable human error which harms patients. Given that approximately one quarter of all hospitalized American patients are harmed by a preventable medical error, the healthcare industry owes the public a commitment to these efforts.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us,” Marty MaKary, Sep. 21, 2012