Thursday, April 7, 2011

Health Affairs Symposium

Health Affairs Symposium Washington DC

The host of today’s program in Washington DC opened the symposium with an introduction about what the next four hours will bring. Leaders in patient safety research were to share their findings as it appears in the papers published by Health Affairs, A leading journal of health policy and research supporting the writings of various health issues and research.

This time it was patient safety and quality healthcare. In her opening remarks, the host said to the audience of, I suppose, writers, researchers and medical professionals “Imagine what the public would think if they knew what we know”. Those words would ring in my ears and set the stage for the rest of the program for me.

When I had an opportunity to speak, I told the audience that of course the patients need to be told. How else can patients make informed decisions when they don’t know the errors that might happen with their treatment? How can there be “informed consent” when the public is not told about ALL the possible outcomes and that means the possibility of mistakes?

The term noncompliant came up a few times. Patients who do not follow the doctors care plan are considered noncompliant. But maybe they are just not trusting because they know they aren’t being given all the information needed to make informed choices.

Speakers were from hospitals, research consulting firms, The Joint Commission and the National Patient Safety Foundation. Each did a research paper, which was published by Health Affairs on some aspect of patient safety or quality. Dr. Mark Chassin, President of the Joint Commission spoke about the recent work with high reliability organizations.

He also said that every week there are still as many as 40 wrong site / wrong patient surgeries – completely preventable by following procedures such as marking the site. This too is something patient’s must be made aware of – over 2,000 wrong procedures a year?

I asked a group of hospital administrators sitting on this panel, how do you know that what you are doing is getting to the bedside. At the top, there are policies and standards set, “I know in many cases they are not being followed at the bedside”. I told them about my many hours at the bedside with patients and simple patient safety policies are not followed. How are they, I asked them, involving patients because that is how to ensure procedures are being followed?

If you really want to see patient safety improve, I suggested that this program goes “on the road” and speak in every community. Share these statistics and numbers and see the groundswell of change come from the public.


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