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Study takeaway: Patients' safety compromised by hospital protocols

Comparisons have been drawn many times in the past to safety protocols and outcomes in the medical industry versus what is in place in the aviation field. In the latter realm, the focus on safety and the highest level of unerring performance is absolute and exacting. Virtually every mishap is widely publicized and painstakingly examined and fixed by aeronautics authorities, with uniform applicability across all countries and airlines.

Were it only likewise in the medical field, which, by comparison, seems woefully backward and fraught with peril. Sloppy and inconsistent are the types of terms commonly employed by study researchers and industry safety gurus, who also stress that failures are not often acknowledged and too often repeated.

A recent study concerning post-surgical outcomes at a large teaching hospital in the United Kingdom merely adds to the types of criticisms and concerns already being widely made. Although the study was confined to one institution, it is considered to have broad applicability to the industry at large.

"My main take home message from this study is that our current patient safety protocols do not keep our patients safe," says one American study reviewer.

The core findings of study researchers who closely tracked the in-hospital care received by post-surgical patients solidly stressed this common theme: Too many medical errors and acts of negligence occur, and they too often lead to serious patient problems and longer hospital stays.

Most typical are personal injury outcomes caused by things like medication errors, treatment delays, inadequate communication among staff members, lab reports inconsistently viewed by different teams and so forth.

These are almost all preventable, say researchers, who strongly stress the need for staff members to routinely employ checklists and "read-backs" (repeated instructions).

Still, and as one reviewer notes, "Protocols alone cannot keep patients safe." As many commentators have stated, the industry needs to strongly promote a culture of safety focused upon transparency, accountability and actively fixing mistakes.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Study finds errors in post-surgery care are common," Kerry Grens, Oct. 2, 2012

  • For information on the strong advocacy and legal representation we provide to clients who suffer personal injuries through hospital negligence or medical malpractice acts, please visit our Northern New Jersey Medical Malpractice page.

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