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Hospital safety program successful in preventing medical mistakes

When going to a hospital for treatment, Oregon patients expect the best care from all their caregivers. Medical mistakes can happen, however, resulting in serious injury or even wrongful death in extreme cases.

One hospital has developed a safety program specifically designed to reduce these kinds of errors. The program was launched three years ago, and has resulted in a 70 percent drop in errors that cause serious harm to patients.

Prior to the launch of the program, hospital officials were not getting a full picture of their safety performance. This is because medical mistakes were examined as individual incidents. With the help of a consultant, hospital administrators discovered they were only average when it came to patient safety. Officials realized the hospital needed a safety culture.

In order to instill the culture, the hospital held focus groups with staff members to discover areas that needed improvement. A hotline was started for doctors to report concerns. Daily safety briefings are now held at the hospital. Hospital officials also approached the family members of a patient who was harmed by a medical mistake. After some time, the family agreed to share their story with hospital staff as a training tool.

One of the biggest changes targeted medication errors, for problems such as accidental overdoses and administering the wrong medications. The hospital has its nurses wear red badges as a signal to others that they are administering medication and should not be disturbed.

Three years into the program, hospital officials are very pleased with the results. They have worked to create a system in which the staff feels comfortable sharing their concerns with superiors. With a 70 percent drop in medical mistakes, the hospital believes they have been successful in implementing a safety program to ensure better care for their patients.

While this hospital has seen great improvements, other hospitals have not been so proactive about safety. When someone is hurt, or killed, by a doctor or hospital's negligence, that person may be entitled to compensation.

Source: The Republic, "'Red zone' safety program reduces patient errors at Wyoming medical center," Joshua Wolfson, Nov. 8, 2012

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