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Stanford University School of Medicine

Keeping patients safe: A Stanford researcher weighs in on medical mistakes

In my work of writing and editing, mistakes often come in the form of misspelled names, incorrect links or confusing sentences. They make me (and others, I'm sure) cringe, but they are clearly not as damaging as medical mistakes, which in the U.S. health care system account for several hundred thousand deaths a year, according to a 2013 report.

Here's the good news: Much can be, and is being, done to prevent these errors. Stanford's Kathryn McDonald, PhD, is among those working to make improvements and she discussed her efforts in this World Class podcast from the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. An excerpt:

Policy can push for and incentivize figuring out how to promote behaviors. We could do a lot better if we had a great set of measures. What do all patients want? They don’t want to be harmed. They don’t want to have their quality of life affected when it doesn’t have to be. If we can measure what all people see as the ideal, and make sure we’re getting constant feedback, then we would make more progress.

Recent federal projects, including those led by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, have made big strides to improve safety, she said, although more work is needed. The podcast provides a glimpse into that undertaking.

Previously: Diagnostic errors: "A complex problem that requires a many-pronged, multi-level attack" and Medical errors caused by doctors not examining their patients
Thumbnail image by WerbeFabrik

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