ACHE 2017: 4 steps to eliminate medical errors

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Healthcare leaders must make the elimination of medical errors a top priority.

CHICAGO—While other businesses, such as the airline and nuclear power industries, have made it their goal to have zero safety events, healthcare is too tolerant of medical errors that harm patients, Charles D. Stokes, the newly elected chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), said on Monday.

In his remarks that opened the ACHE’s 2017 Congress on Healthcare Leadership in Chicago, Stokes called on his colleagues to eliminate medical errors that lead to an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 deaths each year and are the third leading cause of death in the country.

Organizations need to do an immediate root-cause analysis after every medical error that harms a patient, he said, outlining four steps that need to happen:

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Commitment from governance. Senior leaders must ensure that board members make this a top priority of an organization.

Use of evidence-based safety practices. Leaders need to make sure everyone in their organization follows these safety practices. Medical errors persist because leaders tolerate excuses for unsafe practices, he said.

Adopt a culture where safety is a priority. For instance, organizations need to ensure that there is no retribution for staff who speak out about patient safety or ask to stop a procedure if safety practices are not followed. For CFOs who want to know about return on investment, there are business reasons for creating such a culture, he said, including the ability to recruit staff who want to work at a high-quality organization.

Leadership commitment. “We are on stage every day,” he said, and leaders must set an example and create a culture of accountability.