I read with interest an op-ed letter in this week’s Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2016). The letter was written by James Lieber, a lawyer in Pittsburgh. He noted the recently released studies revealing an astonishingly high number of Americans lose their lives each year due to preventable medical negligence. His suggestions to improve patient care include:
1. Adopt Structured Handoffs to avoid miscommunications during transitions in care. For example, when there is a change in nursing shifts, when a patient moves to a different unit within the hospital (from the PCU to the medical surgical floor), and when care is transferred from one specialist to another.
2. Bring in the Pharmacists to avoid medication errors – especially the concomitant use of multiple drugs which can cause life-threatening interactions. Few doctors are up-to-date on medications and dangerous interactions.
3. Fight Diagnostic Errors in the form of misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and over diagnosis. These mistakes flow from physician bias, lack of knowledge, and lack of effective teamwork.
4. Embrace Electronic Medical Records by thoroughly training all health care providers on how they work, making them easy to use, and accessible to all health care organizations.
5. Get Serious About Infection by following evidence-based guidelines for disinfecting surgical tools and patient rooms. 700,000 patients become infected while hospitalized each year.
My Take: It takes time and money to make the changes needed to improve patient care in hospitals. Is your local hospital willing to do the right thing?