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Connecticut hospitals use nuclear sector safety model

Connecticut hospitals have begun applying nuclear industry-style safety standards in their operations. Hospitals are now recognizing that even small errors can have catastrophic consequences, including the wrongful death of patients. As a result, they are now applying high reliability strategies similar to those used in the nuclear power sector.

An administrator at the Connecticut Hospital Association, the organization currently coordinating the initiative, said the push for using these methods has been decades in the making. National focus in reducing hospital errors has been increasing over the years. This has especially been the case since a 1999 report put the annual number of deaths from preventable medical errors as high as 98,000.

Industry experts have observed a change in attitudes in the medical sector. Whereas people in the sector used to believe medicine was a complicated system in which things often went wrong, they are slowly accepting that a medical mistake is often a result of parts of the system that need changing.

One patient safety expert said medical practitioners are now acknowledging that mistakes are made. Part of the reason may be financial. More and more insurance programs are tying payment to the quality of care provided. The government is also penalizing hospitals with high rates of patient readmission linked to avoidable medical mistakes.

Simple procedural changes have been implemented to reduce the risk that a patient dies because of a medical mistake. These range from new standards around hand washing and keeping people out of the operating room during a procedure to daily staff meetings to discuss safety issues of the day.

A large part of making the new approach work is standardization and ensuring staff on the ground can report problems comfortably. Professionals in the medical industry analyze mistakes and learn from them. It is imperative that hospitals do all they can to minimize medical malpractice and fatal accidents. Those whom the system fails may have the right to seek redress through a wrongful death action.

Source: The CT mirror, “CT hospitals follow aviation, nuclear power in targeting errors,” Arielle Levin Becker, April 8, 2014

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