Physician’s Guide to Patient Safety and Avoiding Medical Errors

Two reports were released July 20, by the American Medical Association (AMA) that should help doctors optimize the quality of patient safety. Physicians believe the AMA is the best source to cut through all of the information that’s out there and to serve as a reliable guide for physicians concerning patient safety.

The first report, “Physician’s Guide to Patient Safety Organizations” is a guide to patient safety organizations (PSOs). It encourages doctors to join the organizations and provides a guide to learning about adverse safety events. It provides a glossary, a safety checklist, and work-flow model. Safety checklists have been shown to cut down on medical errors.

The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 established a voluntary, confidential, and privileged means for doctors and others in health care to voluntarily report problems and learn from them. Often a doctor or nurse will hold back on reporting a colleague for fear of losing their job or out of respect for their co-worker.

The second report “Advancing Ambulatory Quality Improvement: Results of focus groups with medical societies,” funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, lays out the role of medical societies in establishing “best practices” that stress safety and the delivery of quality care in a doctor’s office.

The AMA encourages doctors to understand the Patient Safety Act and to participate in a PSO as a way to learn from the experiences of others. The AMA has convened a Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement which has developed 270 evidence-based quality improvements that doctors can incorporate into their practices.

Medical malpractice kills an estimated 100,000 Americans every year and can range from leaving an instrument in a patient, under diagnosing, misdiagnosing, failing to deliver timely medical care, and prescription errors. Hospital infections kill almost as many patients every year.

These are all preventable medical errors and the basis for medical malpractice lawsuits that are filed following one in eight cases of medical malpractice in Florida and nationwide. Instead of blaming lawyers for filing those cases, or the injured patient who is already suffering from their effects, taking some personal responsibility for medical errors is the proper response for physicians and hospitals.