Prevent medical errors by transitioning to an integrated healthcare model

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If the healthcare industry wants to do a better job to prevent medical errors, it should shift from a production-based model to a more integrated model, according to one expert.

John Weeks, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and a longtime consult on integrative health, wrote in a commentary that the field needs to put more focus on ways to treat the whole patient and promote shared decision-making.

“Advancing whole-person care and linking to the emerging values appear to be our best opportunities to help shape the path away from death and toward safety and health,” he wrote.

Weeks examined a previous BMJ study that suggests medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 250,000 lives a year, and the critiques that have been made of those findings by other health professionals. Though he said criticism of the study as an analysis of previous work is fair, Weeks argued that the current structure of the American healthcare system makes a prime breeding ground for errors.

He pointed to three characteristics that produce errors. The industry, according to Weeks, is “organized around industrial principles rather than healthcare values,” which gives providers incentives to churn through patients to make money. The industry may be encouraged to do more, he wrote, but much of what they offer is not backed by solid evidence. And finally, a focus on suppression may prevent adequate, whole-person care, he wrote.

Weeks wrote that the emphasis on transitioning to value-based care highlights that people within the industry understand that change is necessary. There is still a place for more traditional care methods in a new system, he said, but that does not negate the need for widespread change. He called for further research to gather evidence that patient-centered, whole-person care does keep people healthier and reduces mistakes.