After a Medical Error, Patients Could Become Hospital Insiders

Cheryl Clark, May 22, 2014

Patients who have been harmed by medical errors, and their family members, could be recruited to hospital internal quality review proceedings and their suffering could be used to prevent future mistakes. It's a good idea with potentially disastrous side effects.

Hospital quality expert R. Adams Dudley, MD, was flapping his official UCSF identification badge that hung from a lanyard around his neck. He told the group at a recent patient safety meeting that when a hospital patient is harmed, "maybe they and their families should be given one of these."

The point he was trying to make was this:

It's not enough for healthcare providers to merely be honest and apologize when a patient suffers harm, a strategy slowly replacing the standard "deny-and-defend" practice that persists in most hospitals, he says.

And it's not enough to do the thorough root cause analysis, even offering compensation right away, which some organizations are starting to do to avoid litigation and help patients grapple with the tragedy.

They need to do more if they're truly serious about being honest and preventing errors going forward, and this is what Dudley thinks might be the next step to take.

"What if, when someone is harmed in our hospitals, we say not only, 'we're sorry you were harmed', but 'here's a badge. Now you're part of our team. Now, if you choose, you can be a patient advocate, come to our staff meetings, talk about what happened, [and] attend patient safety conferences. We'll e-mail you the meeting schedule.'"

We want you to help tell us how we can prevent this from happening to someone else, he says.


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