What Every Patient Should Know

As reported by The Wall Street Journal this weekend, about 25% of hospitalized patients are harmed by medical errors. The amount of patients killed each week by medical errors is enough to fill four jumbo jets. Why are these numbers so high, and why don't we hear more about this? Some doctors will overlook the mistakes of their colleagues because whistleblowers are often punished and criticized. Doctors who call out other doctors can be assigned to more emergency calls and even bad-mouthed and discredited in retaliation.

The article suggests several positive changes that hospitals can make to ensure that medical errors decrease and teambuilding increases. Medical errors cost the US health care system tens of billions of dollars each year, so limiting the amount of medical errors that occur is beneficial to everyone. One thing hospitals can do is post information and statistics online so that patients have access to it. Including things like surgical complications, rates for infection, how many times the hospital has performed a particular surgery, and patient satisfaction scores can go a long way in making patients feel at ease and helping them pick the right hospital for them. Hospitals should also make sure that their staff members are working as a team. Nurses, interns, and residents should feel comfortable speaking up to attending physicians who may be acting incorrectly. The more comfortable the staff feel speaking up, the less likely errors are to occur. As is the case in any field, people are more likely to do the right thing when they know someone is watching. When people are on their own, they may take shortcuts with their work. By installing video cameras in operating rooms, patients and other doctors can insure that the operating surgeon is following all of the rules and standard operating procedures. In a business where reputation is everything, patients have a right to know all of the details behind that reputation.

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