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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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"Innovative" Hospitals Can Eliminate Errors

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Hospitals can recognize mistakes and fix them. That is the good news reported by the Daily Kos. Unfortunately, the number of hospitals taking this sensible action are so few they are called innovative. Why would this not be commonplace, customary or normal?

Innovative Hospitals: Face Mistakes

This week’s Newsweek has a really outstanding report on “Fixing America’s Hospitals” that profiles several hospitals with innovative programs that are getting patients better care.

Facing up to Mistakes: disclosing errors and problems immediately leads to better patient outcomes, less stress for families and physicians, and fewer malpractice suits. And using the information openly to prevent future mistakes is a pretty nice benefit, too.

From Newsweek, an article called Perfect is Possible, by Donald M. Berwick, MD, and Lucian L. Leape, MD

When defects are common, they can feel normal — inevitable. Instead of trying to fix them, people accept them. For a lot that is wrong with health care today, that is exactly the situation — even though the Institute of Medicine reports that as many as 100,000 people die each year in hospitals from avoidable errors.

Recent experience – at first from just a handful of hospitals, but now from hundreds — shows that this pessimism is unfounded. Many kinds of errors can be completely eliminated; “zero defects” is possible. Some hospitals are, for example, achieving once impossible success at eliminating certain kinds of infections and medication errors. There is no reason these successes can’t be widely replicated, perhaps everywhere.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, along with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, sponsored grants in 2000 to help hospitals “pursue perfection” – no patients dying unnecessarily. If car manufacturers can work for zero defects, can American medicine?

None of the test hospitals became perfect, but they all made dramatic improvements.

These projects are raising the bar for everyone. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 2 million Americans get hospital infections each year. They do not need to. Rates in Norway and Sweden are nearly zero. Why should we accept as inevitable that patients have to die or suffer from hospital-acquired infections, wrong-site surgery, unreliable heart-attack treatment, medication errors — and myriad other forms of error and unreliability in care — when we can now name hospitals that have eliminated or drastically decreased each of these forms of harm?

Do we need to travel to Norway or Sweden to receive quality hospital care?