medical errors kill 100000 americans yearly part 2

In our last post, we talked about the frightening epidemic of medical malpractice. More than a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine reported that as many as 100,000 Americans die in hospitals each year from preventable hospital errors. To put that in perspective, that would be the equivalent of four full jumbo jets crashing every week and killing everyone inside.

That report came out 13 years ago. Despite all the advances in medicine, there is little evidence to suggest that the number of hospital errors is declining. Now, 37 million people are hospitalized every year. But what are hospitals doing to protect those patients, and what shocking negligence is still happening on a daily basis?

In the field of aviation, little mistakes can quickly put the lives of hundreds of people at risk. To mitigate that threat, aviation professionals have spent decades following and refining safety procedures designed to reduce the possibility of human error. In many situations, something as simple as a series of checklists can help prevent fatal mistakes.

It is only recently that hospitals have started copying that simple technique. One man — who is a surgeon, Harvard professor and author — promotes the use of medical checklists to manage the vat of information health care professionals are expected to know. He said, “We now have 13,600 diagnoses, 6,000 drugs, 4,000 medical and surgical procedures, [but] we have not paid attention to the nuts and bolts of what’s required to manage complexity.”

Even simple live-saving procedures are often overlooked. One study found that only half of hospital workers follow hand-washing guidelines, despite excellent staff training and a prevalence of hand sanitizers.

If an airline pilot ignored safety rules, he or she would be fired. However, penalizing careless or negligent health care workers is considered controversial and most hospitals seem unwilling to try.

In reality, there should be nothing controversial about prioritizing patient safety. When health care professionals ignore basic safety procedures — such as washing their hands — they need to be punished. Until hospitals take a firm stance against preventable hospital errors and the negligence that makes them happen, we will continue to watch 100,000 of our loved ones die in the hospital every year.

Source: AARP, “Hospitals May Be the Worst Place to Stay When You’re Sick,” Katharine Greider, March 1, 2012

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