Saturday, February 15, 2014

Waiting Almost 2 Decades

Ronald M. Wyatt, M.D., MHA medical director at The Joint Commission to Address the Public

In 1996, when I was informing the public about their “rights” to information about their doctor’s background, the small group of volunteers I was working with knew that the one place that cared about patient’s safety, before the words were very popular, was The Joint Commission, (known at that time as JCAHO).  I knew that The Joint Commission was a place that patient’s could report harm and feel that the reporting was taken seriously.  After all, that is what The Joint Commission did.  If they didn’t look into reported problems, injuries or unplanned deaths, than who would?
We were surprised when we invited The Joint Commission to speak at a “conference” we were holding one evening at a local congregation, that we couldn’t afford them.  The meeting was to be at the South NassauUnitarian Universalist Congregation, in the heart of Freeport Long Island.  PULSE of NY was started there as a support group for medical injury survivors.  For many years we would meet on a Sunday afternoon, once a month to help each other and learn from each other.  We thought of ways to raise the money to bring a speaker in to New York but we couldn’t make it happen.  The audience was the hospitals and the healthcare organizations accredited.  Today, there are 20,000 organizations   accredited by The Joint Commission.  Accreditation by The Joint Commission is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.
I spent almost the next decade working to educate the public about patient safety.  Nine years later, I found myself on the board of The Joint Commission.  As a commissioner, I make up one of the seven public members, not representing a healthcare organization.
And now another nine years later, The Joint Commission has graciously offered to send Ronald M. Wyatt, M.D., MHA medical director in the Division of Healthcare Improvement at The Joint Commission to come speak at the PULSE of NY Patient Safety Symposiumon Diagnostic Errors addressing the public.

I suggest you don’t miss out on this historic event.  Register now before it’s too late.  Registration open through February 25, 2014.   To see the sponsors and register go to

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Symposium Should Be About Patients

What’s in a Title?
I learned today that a non-doctor group won’t support a symposium sponsored by PULSE of NY, because the title has the word “doctor” which, in this group’s opinion, excludes other medical professionals.  The title of the symposium “Medical Diagnosis: Help Your Doctor Help You, Patients Involved in Healthcare, The role of Patient Engagement in Error Prevention” may be long, but it’s not “wrong” and doesn’t exclude anyone. 
The fact is many diagnoses are missed by doctors.  In a USNews article some 5 percent of autopsies find condition missed by doctors that, if treated, might have saved the patient's life. has a story offering “8 Ways to Help Your Doctor Make the Right Diagnosis.”  And, the NationalInstitute of Health explains that it is your primary care doctor who will diagnose asthma. The Parkinson’s Disease website also shares information about getting a diagnosis titled: How does your doctor make a PD diagnosis?  
Since physicians, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners can treat and diagnose illnesses, we need to be sure they are all getting it right.  According to Society to Improve Diagnosis in MedicineDiagnostic error is the leading cause of medical malpractice claims in the US, and is estimated to cause 40,000-80,000 deaths annually. One in every ten diagnoses is wrong and one in every thousand ambulatory diagnostic encounters results in harm.”
There is no doubt that this symposium to help patients and families understand how errors can be made in diagnosis could have been called Help Your Nurse, Physicians Assistant, Medical Team, Provider or Clinician Help You - but it isn’t. That’s because it’s usually the doctor that patients talk to when receiving a diagnosis and if it’s wrong, it’s the doctor who is held responsible.
If I stayed away from every conference, meeting or program that didn’t sound like it pertained to me, I would have stayed on Long Island the last 20 years and learned nothing.