Why Every Week Should be Patient Safety Awareness Week

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My typing is a bit hampered after my finger surgery still. At least my surgery was safe and my outcomes seem to be good. Not everybody is so lucky.

This week is the annual Patient Safety Awareness Week. In this post, I'll try to help with awareness… and every week should be focused on solving this global problem.

How big of a problem is this? Here are some stats that I've compiled (and this is not a uniquely-American problem).

The IHI says:

“Although there has been real progress made in patient safety over the past two decades, current estimates place harm as a leading cause of death worldwide. Some studies suggest that medical error may cause as many as 400,000 deaths in the US each year, and not all errors result in death. In a recent survey of a representative sample of Americans, 41 percent said they had experienced a medical error in their own care or in the care of a close relative or friend. The harms resulting from these errors can have a long-term or permanent impact on the patient's physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or their family relationships.

Errors and safety lapses can occur in any setting and take many forms:

  • According to a consensus report from the National Academy of Medicine, estimates suggest that 5 percent of US adults who seek care in outpatient settings experience a diagnostic error.
  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that, at any time, 1 in 31 hospitalized patients has an infection acquired in the health setting.
  • Medication errors and adverse events are among the most common errors in both inpatient and outpatient settings.”

Here is a blog post that I wrote about Patient Safety Week in 2008, where I suggested patient safety deserves more than a week:

https://www.leanblog.org/2008/03/patient-safety-week-starts-today/

My friend Chris Jerry is going to be on The Dr. Oz Show episode that airs today, alongside Eric Cropp, the pharmacy who was convicted in the case of the medical error that killed Emily Jerry. It's one thing for me to say it's not fair or just to prosecute people who are involved in systemic errors… it's more powerful when the father of a victim takes that stance.

Are we trying to fix the patient safety problem? Or does society just try to feel better by punishing people, like RaDona Vaught (see this analysis of the case where, I think, she's being wrongly prosecuted).

One organization that's doing great work to help protect patients is the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation. I'm proud to be on their board and we've contributed over $4,000 to them through the sale of the anthology book Practicing Lean. Check out their free Batz Guide publications and apps.

Here is a webinar that Laura Batz Townsend did in 2017:

You can also listen to Paul O'Neill talk about patient safety in this podcast:

Some other podcasts:

And more blog posts on #PatientSafety, including:

And this is a long-standing problem…

Let's get back to work fixing this serious problem… there are success stories… we need more of them….

What are your patient safety improvement success stories? How can we create more? How can we create more awareness of this problem all throughout the year?


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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