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Clinicians' silence can lead to patient suffering

Recently Forbes published an article called "Six Frightening Facts You Need To Know About Healthcare." In the article, the writer provided several statistics around subjects our readers are likely familiar with: avoidable medical errors that lead to patient injury or death, money wasted on preventable errors, and doctors practicing defensive medicine rather than doing what is best for the patient. Of all of the topics the article discussed, however, one stood out. 

We all know that poor communication is often a factor in preventable errors, but this statistic shows that some clinicians are not just failing to communicate, they are afraid to communicate. 

Shockingly, almost 60 percent of clinicians who were surveyed for a study that came out in 2005 said they either could not get anyone to listen or felt unsafe saying anything about a problem they observed. What is even more alarming is the fact that 88 percent of doctors said they had multiple colleagues who showed poor judgement, and 84 percent of doctors said they had witnessed other doctors taking shortcuts that could be harmful to patients.

The most obvious way to cut back on this apparently rampant problem is to require those who witness poor judgement or bad care to speak up. Unfortunately, the VitalSmarts study also found that more than 90 percent of people who witness these problems never say a word.

No patient in Albuquerque or elsewhere deserves to be put in harm's way because of this type of hospital negligence. It is time that hospitals take this problem seriously and demand that staff members report instances of poor patient care.

Source: Forbes, "Six Frightening Facts You Need To Know About Healthcare," Robert J. Szczerba, Oct. 22, 2013

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