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Hospitals can take simple steps to reduce errors: Part 1

Hospitals use more and more high-tech equipment to improve patient care, but there are often much simpler ways to prevent mistakes. Preventing errors is best accomplished through taking human error out of the equation as much as possible.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times looks at this topic and what a man named head of the Medicaid and Medicare programs is trying to do at hospitals around the country before his appointment to the position ends at the end of this year.

Dr. Donald Berwick wants hospitals to join him in a campaign to cut hospital readmissions by 20 percent and infections acquired at hospitals by 40 percent by 2013. He believes that simple measures implemented across the board can dramatically reduce medical errors and patient injuries.

Berwick can't understand why hospitals don't act like other industries that have worked hard to create processes that eliminate more human error. Certain measures in place in other industries -- such as asking about a customer's experience and communication across teams of people -- are often not made a priority at hospitals. He believes hospital system many times set doctors and nurses up to fail.

One example is a hospital where it was found that nurses were mixing up epinephrine with Vitamin E because the bottles were nearly identical. Instead of getting the vitamin supplement, babies were given a drug that sped up their heart and killed them.

The next post will further discuss this topic.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Pressing for better quality across healthcare," Noam N. Levey, Oct. 4, 2011

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