Distracted Driving Deaths Distract Us from Medical Error Deaths?
The general public still, generally speaking, doesn't realize how much preventable harm and death occurs in healthcare each year. Efforts like the Dennis Quaid “Target Zero” TV program are trying to educate the public about how common medical harm is and, more importantly, how preventable this harm really is through simple process improvement efforts.
As I've compiled here, the estimates about the harm caused by errors and hospital acquired infections are sobering. The Boston Globe recently wrote on its editorial page that “Massachusetts should ban all cellphone use while driving” because of the 6,000 deaths that are attributed to this problem each year. Medical errors and infections are suspected of causing as many as 30 times as many deaths each year.
I'm not saying we should ignore the issue of texting and driving. I'm saying we need MORE attention on medical harm.
The Globe wrote this line that jumped out at me and prompted this post:
If any other activity caused the deaths of 6,000 people it would be banned overnight.
That “any other activity” is medical errors. It's not so simple that we can “ban” errors, unfortunately.
What we CAN do is things like this:
- Educate the public – not to scare them – but to make them aware that healthcare causes a lot of harm
- Also educate the public that the problem is primarily “bad systems” not “bad people”
- Continue educating the healthcare world of the above points
- Keep educating healthcare about the role of systems and process (including Lean) in reducing errors, improving quality, and reducing patient harm
What else can we do? What should we do?