what are hospitals doing to improve the safety of surgical patients ii

Our last post started discussing how many hospitals across the U.S. are now implementing innovative measures in an attempt to limit their exposure to so-called “adverse medical events,” which can affect both their professional reputation and their profits.

In today’s post, we’ll continue this discussion, examining some of the other steps being implemented by hospitals to ensure the safety of surgical patients.

A surgical safety risk of which many people might be unaware, but which is all too real are fires in the operating room. Indeed, studies show that there are upwards of 600 OR fires across the U.S. every year, and that this number could be even higher given the potential reluctance by a surgical team to confess to a mishap.

These fires typically occur thanks to the use of tools like surgical lasers, which can spark a flash-fire by igniting the oxygen or other combustible materials present in the OR. What makes these OR fires so devastating is that they frequently occur at the site of the operation, meaning the patient suffers serious burns.

In recognition of this danger, hospitals are now mandating training for their surgeons about this very issue, ensuring that they have a basic understanding of how to safely manage energy devices in the OR.

Another innovative measure being taken by hospitals addresses the problem of disruptive surgeons, meaning those who are dismissive of things like surgical checklists and preoperative huddles, or otherwise intimidating to those under their control.

If you question why this matters to hospitals, consider 1) the proven value of preoperative safety measures, and 2) studies have shown that when surgical team members are distracted by the surgeons spearheading the procedure, it can have a corrosive effect on morale and, more significantly, take the focus away from the patient.

The innovative measures by hospitals in this area include the adoption of so-called zero-tolerance policies for disruptive behavior. This means such those surgeons who fail to abide by safety protocol and/or intimidate surgical team members may be required to appear before a professional conduct committee, complete anger-management programs or even lose their operating privileges for a set period.

These are highly encouraging developments. Here’s hoping we see more hospitals adopt these innovative measures such that they become the norm and not the exception.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “How to make surgery safer,” Laura Landro, Feb. 16, 2015

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