Preventing wrong-site surgery requires hospital, physician support

Wrong-site surgery occurs 40 times a week in U.S. hospitals and clinics, according to The Joint Commission, reports Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, and those figures aren't getting any better even with universal protocol to prevent the "never event." In 2010, 93 wrong-site surgery cases were reported, compared to 49 cases in 2004.

It's important to keep in mind that increased efforts for public reporting and transparency are linked to increases in reported adverse events, meaning that those negative outcomes may have always existed and that institutions are only in recent years revealing them.

"It's disheartening that we haven't moved the needle on this," said Peter Pronovost, patient safety advocate and medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care, in the article.

Wrong-site surgery requires more than mandates; it requires a culture change, according to Mark Chassin, a former New York state health commissioner and president of The Joint Commission. "I'd argue that this really is rocket science," he said. "[It] turns out to be more complicated to eradicate than anybody thought."

To help prevent wrong-site surgery, hospitals and physicians themselves must take ownership of checklists and standardized procedures, personally investing in preventing the adverse event.

Even more, Medicare does not reimburse for wrong-site surgery, and Medicaid will institute a similar policy, effective next year.

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News-Washington Post article