A Healthy Dose of Reality

Originally posted 5-6-2010:
98,000. I still remember being shocked by the number when I first heard it.

I decided to take a course on medical errors as part of my graduate work in Human Factors Engineering. It seemed like a good fit, as I was also working for a large medical device manufacturer. I figured understanding medical errors and how they occurred would help me to develop solutions using the products I was working on.  Little did I know how big of an issue medical errors were.

98,000? Was it really possible that an estimated 98,000 patients were dying every year due to medical errors? I have to admit, before hearing the number, I always figured the hospital was the safest place for someone who was sick. The next concept was just as intriguing: healthcare professionals are humans and humans make errors. It was so simple and made so much sense, yet the thought had never occurred to me.

That two credit course ended up having a significant impact on my professional career. I wanted to know more. I started reading more on medical errors and the idea of how the system, not the caregiver, fails the patient.  I searched out articles and books related to patient safety, seeking to understand the solutions being presented. It became a passion. I started to ask myself how I could use this growing knowledge of patient safety issues to design medical software to protect the patient.

10 years after the Institute of Medicine came out with that report with the estimate of 98,000 patients, the numbers have not improved much.  There is still a lot work to be done to make the healthcare system safer for patients.  On the other hand, there has been a lot of great research and solutions presented.

I want to share what I am learning. With each blog post I plan to feature and discuss an article, book, or news story related to patient safety. My goal is to raise patient safety awareness.  Reading this blog will help you to learn more about the reality of the issues that are harming patients. My hope is that it may spark discussions on solutions.