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What are hospitals doing to improve patient safety?: Part 2

As discussed in the previous post, a recent article in Kaiser Health News noted that medical errors in hospitals are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer. 

Hospitals have not done much to improve patient safety over the last decade, but some institutions are trying harder to implement new strategies and systems that can help reduce the impact natural human error has on patient health and well-being.

One ongoing problem involves wrong-site surgeries. The Joint Commission began, in 2004, to require hospitals to put a system in place to eliminate these harmful and sometimes devastating surgical mistakes.

Doctors and nurses are required now to use the "universal protocol," which includes both verifying and marking the area to be operated on before a patient goes into surgery and taking a "time out" right before the surgery to again double-check that the right part of the body is being operated on.

Even with this protocol in place, as many as 40 wrong-site surgeries happen every week in the U.S. Kaiser Health News notes that part of the problem is the culture of hospitals, which can be hierarchical, rather than fostering teamwork and collaboration. This means that doctors may be over-confident that they know what they are doing. If an operation was done more as a team, a nurse might point out to a doctor that the wrong ovary was being removed.

The next post will continue to discuss this issue.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "Doctor, Did You Check Your Checklist?" Bara Vaida, Jan. 30, 2012

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