In yesterday’s post we discussed the efforts of Dr. Donald Berwick to reduce the number of hospital errors that occur in Boston and around the country. Stopping the rampant amount hospital errors can seem like a daunting task, but Dr. Berwick approaches his mission with an understanding of the causes of physician errors. Many of these mistakes are attributable to preventable mistakes made by exhausted medical providers. Dr. Berwick remembers giving the wrong transfusion to an infant when he was a young exhausted resident. He says that he still feels guilty about that medical mistake.

“We’re frail,” Berwick said. “I have four children. I mix up their names all the time. But mistakes can be prevented by redesigning systems to protect human beings from their own frailty.”

Dr. Berwick draws inspiration from the aviation industry to design these systems. The aviation industry noticed a series of fatal crashes attributable to distracted flight crews and instituted a series of measures to cut down on distractions. An example is a rule that prohibits nonessential conversation during take-off and landing which is attributable to a dramatic decrease in accidents.

Cutting distractions is just one part in Dr. Berwick’s medical malpractice reduction efforts. Another overarching theme in medical malpractice reform is training doctors to think about healthcare as an interconnected process. This means that hospitals and doctors should keep track of patience outcomes and experiences to learn from the feedback.

Unfortunately the rate of medical malpractice in our nation’s hospitals will likely not decrease significantly in the near future. This means that medical malpractice attorneys will still be needed to help hold negligent medical providers accountable for their mistakes and advocate for the wellbeing of injured patients.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Pressing for better quality across healthcare,” Noam N. Levey, Oct. 4, 2011