April 21, 2009

World Alliance for Patient Safety - An initiative to encourage hospitals to report medical errors

With medico-legal cases against hospitals and doctors piling up in consumer forums, medical practitioners say it is time to look inwards rather than fighting a never-ending legal battle.

Medical errors like leaving a mop in the patient’s body, operating upon a wrong eye, administering wrong injection, overdosage of medication etc that have become nightmarish for patients have frightened doctors equally.

Such incidents, which go unreported, will now be quietly recorded and reported to an independent body in an attempt to streamline and improve the healthcare system. All this, however, will still be voluntary.

“Patients or the aggrieved party term it medical negligence but in many cases these are medical errors, which are beyond the capacity of the doctor to reverse. Fearing a legal case, doctors do not report it to hospital administration or any scientific body,” said Dr Nikhil Datar, gynaecologist.

Hence, to encourage hospitals to report such cases, the Indian Confederation for Healthcare Association — consisting of many medical associations and representatives of various associations, nurses, hospital administrators, patient groups and NGOs — met at civic-run KEM hospital on Sunday. The Association launched a patient safety initiative, probably one of the first organised efforts in this direction, under the aegis of the World Health Organisation theme — ‘World Alliance for Patient Safety’.

“We want hospitals to report errors, even if it is done confidentially, so that we can identify problem areas and work on them. It won’t be a about a stamp of approval as much as a real effort to gain excellence in healthcare,” said Dr Akhil Sangal of the ICHA. He cited the example of an initiative of voluntary reporting in the USA, where bloodstream infections across hospitals were reduced by 66 per cent.

“Doctors in the west have started sharing information in confidential meetings. Information shared in these meetings is not taken as evidence in the court of law. This encourages doctors to openly discuss errors and prevent others from repeating them,” added Dr Datar.

Reporting medical errors will be a win-win situation for both the patient as well as the doctors. Maharashtra has already taken a lead to protect the patients by including a clause in a recently-approved ordinance protecting medical establishments against attacks.

Link: Original Article

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