To Do No Harm: Safety as a Professional Obligation
But of these three, SAFETY is paramount.
Not a day goes by when my email doesn’t have a product recall or another example of medical practice “gone bad” as a result of poor judgment or carelessness.
An example of that recently appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, which highlighted the misuse of diagnostic imaging tests -- providing as evidence the story of a 59 year old schoolteacher who received 100 times the average radiation dose during a brain CT. A test it turns out, that was not even necessary if the patient’s condition would have been properly diagnosed.
All of which points to the fact that we must never discount such common sense safety measures such as tracking radiation exposure or making imaging equipment safer.
So what can we specifically do to focus more attention on improving patient safety?
Let’s first start by educating hospital boards, with the aim of encouraging them to become more engaged in adopting a number of processes including system level harm measurements that would directly improve the safety of patients.
It’s time we get the “boards on board” for quality care and safety issues. After all, responsibility for safety in hospitals lies, in part, on each institution’s board of directors. This is actually the name of a program created by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to educate and engage hospital boards. In far too many cases, the responsibility of safety and quality concerns has been delegated by the board to the medical staff.
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