Mistakes and Mishaps!

stomach_stapling_031208_22When someone goes to a hospital to seek services they expect the best. Anything less is unacceptable. This is a common phenomenon irrespective of where ever you are in the world. Sure enough, no one wants to go to hospital unless absolutely necessary and of course they want to get better as quickly as possible.

But how perfect are hospitals? How perfect are the people who work there?

A mistake or a mishap in a hospital is a big thing. It points a lot of fingers, becomes a major media headline and lead to accusations of intentionally disabling someone or even worse killing someone. Healthcare providers are always on the alert, continuously conscious trying to avoid any such incidence in the hospital they work in. The irony is that something happens when you least expect it. Such incidences are detrimental to the hospital and the professionals since people loose confidence and trust in them. It is always said that Maldivians go abroad for treatment because they do not have confidence in the services. I see that the Maldivian health care system has a major challenge to achieve their trust and confidence.

What is alarming but true are the statistics from the world’s most advanced health systems. The following are some statistics that I collected from expert presentations from the UK, US, Australia and so forth. In the UK about 10% of patients admitted to hospitals face some adverse event. In Canada almost 13% and in Australia almost 17% of all patients admitted to hospitals face and adverse event. Every year almost 19,000 babies are dropped by doctors while taking deliveries, over 20,000 wrong prescriptions are given and over 5,000 surgeries are done on the wrong side in some of the world’s most advanced health systems. It was shown that in the US alone some 98,000 people die in hospital due to medical errors per year. Over all more than 80% of all mishaps in hospitals are due to human error.

However, unlike any other business health professionals will not be able to call back the patient. Nokia could recall faulty batteries and replace them, but an ovary that was taken out by mistake cannot be recalled back and replaced. Is it possible for health care settings to achieve the expectation of 100% perfection?

So how do health care providers compensate for this?

Continuously improving the quality of care delivery is the most important thing. Thriving to achieve perfection should be their goal. But even then when and if such a mistake or mishap occurs, a good investigation and full disclosure to the concerned patient and family would perhaps help. Showing empathy and a sincere apology would at least gain respect and a bit of confidence from the patients. Unfortunately this is the hardest to do. Not only in the Maldives but all across the world. However, in fact in some countries such practices have shown very positive outcomes for hospitals. In the US, adverse events in hospitals are such an issue that there is now a Coalition of doctors, insurers, patients, lawyers, administrators and researchers called “The Sorry Works Coalition” joined together to provide a solution for medical mistakes, mishaps and also malpractice (www.sorryworks.net). Though the sorry works, the efforts should not stop there. Health care providers shall keep thriving. Thriving to reach that level of expectation.

What can patients do and what are their roles? Well the best thing is to empower themselves to what their rights and responsibilities are while in a hospital. Making sure that you question the professionals till you are satisfied and understand your treatments, investigations and procedures. If you need a second opinion let the professional who is treating you know that and you can even refuse treatment till you are convinced that you should go ahead with it. This may offend some professionals but it is your right. Get professionals to accept you as an equal partner in determining the treatment you get.

Though hard to achieve, once the patient and the provider are in harmony on these issues, healthcare provision will have very good outcomes with the best of satisfaction. It will help build the confidence and trust between the patient and the provider.

After all to err is just human!

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