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Hospitals can take simple steps to reduce errors: Part 2

As discussed in the previous post, in this age of technology, it is often the simple things hospitals do to prevent errors that save patient lives. Dr. Donald Berwick was appointed by President Obama as head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, but his appointment runs out at the end of the year.

Before he goes, he is trying to do all he can to get hospitals to develop quality assurance processes that can prevent errors by doctors and nurses and prevent unnecessary patient injuries and deaths.

Berwick wants hospitals to implement the same kind of processes that airlines and big companies do to prevent human error by distractible humans. After several fatal plane crashes, the airline industry implemented the "sterile cockpit rule" thirty years ago that has greatly reduced airplane crashes. The rule says that no nonessential conversation should happen during crucial times of operating the plane.

One example he cites in a recent Los Angeles Times article is a hospital that set up a quiet zone for nurses to place medication orders. They can't be interrupted during this time, even for an emergency. The hospitals made the change after many mistakes were being made in medication orders that could lead to serious harm. The hospital found that the simple step resulted in two-thirds fewer medication errors occurring.

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

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