July 14, 2015

Preventing Medical Errors

Prevention is a buzzword in the healthcare industry. We work for the prevention of diseases, the prevention of illnesses, and the prevention of bad client experiences, but we also must work to prevent avoidable medical errors.

Medical error might seem to be a taboo topic in our industry, but why? It’s happening, and according to recent claims, it’s happening more often than it should. Preventable medical errors are being made, like patients receiving operations intended for a different patient, physicians arriving to the wrong site, and surgical instruments being left in patients’ bodies. In fact, new research suggests that medical error is causing thousands of patient deaths each year.

With all of that being said, although these errors are occurring at an alarming rate, there are solutions that might assist organizations in reducing distractions and improving standards for best practices.

One article referenced steps taken by the South Florida healthcare system, which includes what is known as “crew resource management”, a procedural system similar to that used by pilots and flight crews. Essentially, the system focuses on checklists and huddles to prevent errors in operating rooms.

Although this is becoming a popular form of protocol in healthcare as well, many worry that the longer task lists and discussions might actually lead to an increase in distractions and, therefore, an increase in medical error. Supporters, however, argue that the opposite occurs, resulting in streamlined surgeries and extra attention to safeguarding.

In addition to studying solutions for preventable medical errors, experts are also trying to get to the root of why they continue happening. One study suggested that poor communication is a leading factor in surgical error. Other causes include over-confidence, poor hand-offs, distraction, fatigue, poor decision-making, oversight, inadequate supervision, lack of planning, and issues occurring within an organization’s culture and processes.

So what’s the solution? A Fierce Healthcare article written by Ilene McDonald offered a few insightful solutions for organizations to consider, the most important being to improve the culture of patient safety in the entire organization, not just in the operating room. This means admitting when a mistake is made, speaking up if there is a concern, and more transparency within teams. It might also mean implementing phrases to indicate critical times of a procedure, creating a less intimidating environment that allows others to share their concerns, and adhering to a series of questions or a checklist throughout every phase of the procedure.

What it all comes down to it seems is creating an environment with proven successful processes in which individuals and teams can communicate openly. For more information on how Coors Healthcare Solutions can help you create this type of environment in your own team, be sure to contact us today. Have a thought of your own to add regarding preventable medical error? Tweet it to us @coorsrecruiters.


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