Friday, August 06, 2004

More on Medical Errors

The medical errors saga gets no better.

The Business section of the August 3, 2004 issue of The Boston Globe carried a story under the byline of Liz Kowalczyk reporting on a survey of ENT surgeons. Of the 466 who responded to a survey (out of 2,500 who received the questionnaire), 45 per cent reported that a medical error had occurred in their practice in the previous six months. Seventy-eight of the errors seriously harmed patients and nine were fatal. Two were blinded.

The study was published in the journal Laryngoscope. In an accompanying editorial, Lucian Leape of the Harvard School of Public Health said that while anesthesia, emergency medicine, and intensive care physicians have made some progress in this area, most surgeons have not been involved in these activities, regarding “safety and quality improvement as the province of others.”

Reporter Kowalczyk interviewed Dr. David Roberson of Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the study’s authors, and Dr. Michael Zinner, head of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. They suggested that more and better information would be helpful and that patients might be more involved in helping prevent errors.

In any other line of work, process improvement, discipline, and accountability would be called for. But not in health care. At least not yet.

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