Disturbing Report Highlights Importance of Patient Safety

By Kristine Hartvigsen on May 24th, 2016

Loyal audiences of National Public Radio (NPR) likely choked on their coffee listening to “Morning Edition” on May 3. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine recently released the results of a study positing that if medical errors were a disease, they would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer.

The release of this study is timely as the National Patient Safety Foundation is holding its Annual Patient Safety Congress in Scottsdale, AZ this week. OBHG will be there, and attendees are invited to visit us at Booth No. 317. Patient safety needs to be front and center of everything we do, and continuing the dialogue is imperative.

Researchers suggested that inadequate documentation on death certificates is a primary reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not capture and publish data that accurately reflect underlying medical errors as a cause of death. Rather, the primary diagnosis code, such as cardiovascular disease, is used.Many healthcare professionals have vehemently disputed this finding and maintain that current reporting systems are adequate.

The study’s authors asserted that lethal medical errors go largely unmeasured, and discussions about error prevention are limited and internal. They contended that a lack of public awareness about the frequency and severity of medical errors discourages funding for error prevention research. They proposed adding a field on death certificates to note whether a preventable complication or error contributed to the death. 

“Although we cannot eliminate human error, we can better measure the problem to design safer systems mitigating its frequency, visibility, and consequences,” the authors said.

Ob Hospitalist Group’s Risk, Quality, and Compliance (RQC) department works to ensure that OBHG can elevate the quality of women’s healthcare while simultaneously preventing errors and reducing risk. One of the department’s initiatives, the SAFE program, employs a special hotline for reporting of safety incidents. OBHG’s Quality Assurance report identifies areas of potential risk and opportunities for quality improvement. Through its efforts, SAFE has assisted OBHG providers and hospitals alike in proliferating patient safety.

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