Expert and author traces history of patient safety movement, suggests stories

Cheryl Clark

About Cheryl Clark

Cheryl Clark (@CherClarHealth) is AHCJ's core topic leader for patient safety, a MedPage Today contributor and inewsource.org investigative journalist. For most of 27 years, she covered medicine and science for the San Diego Union-Tribune. After taking a buyout in 2008, she became senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media.

Yes, there’s a lot going on these days.

Impeachment.

Potential war.

The 2020 election.

(Forget for a minute the cynic’s view that all three things might actually be the same.)

We’re forgetting or perhaps just distracted from drawing our readers’ attention to a preventable problem that kills some 200,000 people a year.

Doctors and other health care executives say they can’t prevent every preventable bad outcome. They calculate the return on investment for to achieve safer care. What does the hospital’s chief financial officer’s ledger sheet show for, say, the cost of remodeling bathrooms to prevent hospital falls compared to the cost of treating patients who were injured after falling in a hospital bathroom?

Wouldn’t it be great to know what health care officials consider the blue line, over which the numbers justify reducing harm but below which the response is: “We did everything in our power. We’re sorry for your loss.”

Read thought cloud: “Rare event … Unavoidable … a horrendoma.”

Michael L. Millenson

Michael L. Millenson

Michael Millenson, long a student, researcher and heavily published author of topics related to the patient safety movement, gives AHCJ members a wide-ranging history of health providers’ intermittent but gradually expanding attention to this costly source of patient pain and harm.

But those efforts are far from enough. And journalists have a responsibility to bring attention back to this critical topic.

He urges health journalists to look in their own communities and explore the efforts of medical providers toward getting to a safer culture.

1 thought on “Expert and author traces history of patient safety movement, suggests stories

  1. Stanley Sack, MD

    As a mostly retired clinician and budding freelance journalist, I often wonder how many hospital CEOs and similar administrators in positions of power know the risks, know that complications cost more than prevention, but just cross their fingers and hope things won’t happen on their watch? They continue to do well financially thanks to their healthy bottom lines, ignoring pleas from people who have something to say on the subject of safety or standard of care–and by the time something happens, they’ve retired or have moved on to do the same thing in another facility. It’s sort of like going without insurance and hoping that rare “never” event doesn’t happen.

    I wonder if the answer is to make administrators accountable for “never” events after they’ve left a facility, much as physicians can have a lengthy statute of limitations for clinical mistakes. Many oversights are easily proven in this day and age of e-mail trails.

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