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Suggested reforms to cut medical errors, increase transparency

Medical malpractice is pervasive in hospitals across the country, including in New Jersey, but in many cases it fails to garner the headlines it merits. That owes to many reasons, including confidential settlements, gag orders and other methods of keeping patients from speaking out about harms they suffered as the direct result of medical negligence.

As a result, surgical error, medication error and other hospital-introduced mistakes are far more common than many patients realize. Without the accountability of having these mistakes published and openly available for public perusal, it has become easy for dangerous hospital trends to persist.

One surgeon and writer is now speaking out about the reform that he feels is necessary to hold hospitals accountable and materially cut back on instances of medical malpractice. Many of his suggestions are easy to implement, he argues, and the measures are desperately needed if effective reform is expected to take place in the medical industry.

Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, believes that hospitals should use safety culture scores to gauge how well the workplace environment encourages safety among its professionals. These scores would be determined by surveying doctors, nurses and other hospital staff on how comfortable they feel making sure safety measures are enforced at all times.

Video cameras also need to be installed and widely used in surgery settings and in other treatment rooms, says Makary. Although cameras are currently used in some settings, they are rarely employed the way they should be. Filming can be useful in holding surgeons and other medical staff accountable and can also be used as a learning tool to prevent surgical and other treatment errors in the future.

Doctor's notes should also be readily reviewable by patients rather than being kept confidential -- a measure that could increase communication and knowledge for both parties.

Lastly, Makary says that gag orders in medicine need to be eliminated. Such orders are sometimes employed to keep patients from making negative comments regarding their treatment, but this only does a disservice to future patients -- and it keeps hospitals from suffering any consequences for wrongful actions.

If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury that owes to an act of medical malpractice or hospital negligence, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "How to stop hospitals from killing us," Marty Makary, Sept. 21, 2012

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