Friday, December 15, 2017

Medical Conferences

By Ilene Corina, Patient Safety Advocate
December 2017

Another medical conference on the topic of patient safety has just passed. There have been numerous conferences over the years, and I have attended many of them.  I usually leave inspired, excited and often overwhelmed by the upbeat and positive work being done in patient safety.

The usual program for such conferences has patient safety leaders talking about the wonderful work they are doing.  One or more patients, who may or may not be medical professionals, talk about the tragedy that brought them there that day. There will be presentations about the heartbreaking journeys of the family members of patients who died, patients who weren’t treated well, and many presentations offering insights for the healthcare professionals on how improvements can be made. Then there may be awards for the great work being done to save lives. 

While all this is happening, in a state far, far away, there is another side to this. A hospitalized patient is getting an incorrect diagnosis or the wrong medication, or is fighting a hospital-acquired infection. Have the healthcare professionals attending the conference remembered to tell their patient and those patients’ loved ones what they too should know about keeping safe?

I have said for years that patient safety should be seen as like wearing a seat belt. It is up to the driver (the medical team) to do the right thing, but if something goes wrong we (the patients) still should be wearing a seatbelt. Not because we are predicting something will go wrong, but because it might. Patients who know nothing about patient safety have no “seatbelt” are completely unprepared for the risks and unwanted outcomes.
These conferences need to be attended by representatives of business and industry — both management and rank-and-file employees — that is, the people who actually use the healthcare system. 

UPS has 434,000 employees
General Electric has more than 300,000 employees
Bank of America has 208,000 employees
Disney World has 62,000 employees
In 2006 a survey found that 14.5% of employees took Family Medical Leave in 2004. Of those, 35 percent took it more than once during the year. How many of these days off could have been avoided if there were fewer complications in healthcare?
Since between 200,000 and 400,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors, at a cost of as much as $19.5 billion[1], shouldn’t the corporate leaders of UPS, GE, Bank of America, Disney World and other major employers be sending their staff to patient safety conferences?
At what point does someone in healthcare say: “We’ve had enough training but it’s still not perfect. So now we must include patients, their families and their employers in this conversation.

Contact:  Ilene Corina (516) 579-4711 or

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