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Doctor: Make it easier to report medical mistakes

The numbers of medical errors made in New Mexico and across the nation are simply astounding. According to a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety, each year between 210,000 and 440,000 people die from medical mistakes made in hospitals.

"The number is greater than the number of people who die from homicide, HIV, stroke and diabetes combined," a doctor recently wrote in a column about the deadly errors.

The anesthesiologist added other jaw-dropping facts: More than 1.3 million Americans sustain injuries annually because of medication errors.

And every day, seven people suffer wrong-site surgeries.

The doctor did more than cite statistics, however. She also proposed changes in the way that hospitals and doctors deal with these errors; changes she says could help make her profession safer for the people it treats.

She argues that the medical profession should emulate the error-reporting process and culture found in the aviation industry.

She notes that in both lines of work, people’s lives are on the line and that even small mistakes can have tragic consequences.

The doctor explains that the medical profession could learn from aviation. In that industry, people feel freer and safer reporting errors. “The airline industry has developed a non-punitive reporting system,” she notes. That reporting process “aims to shift the blame from the individual to the environment or system.”

She adds that in her view it’s unfortunate that only a third of hospitals now allow anonymous reporting of errors. Instead, their systems allow for retribution or blowback after someone reports a mistake.

It’s her belief that if more hospitals instituted non-punitive reporting systems, doctors, nurses and other personnel would feel safer when reporting mistakes, and that the errors could be addressed and possibly prevented in the future.

For those who have suffered an injury because of a medical error committed by a negligent doctor, a conversation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help put them on the path to receiving full and fair compensation.

Source: Press of Atlantic City, "Medicine must address errors the way aviation does," Nina Radcliff, Sept. 25, 2013

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