Patient safety for the masses?

I have been a little derelict in blogging recently, so I am going to mention something that has been sitting on my dining table for three weeks and that deserves some attention: The May 23 issue of Parade magazine, the insert that appears in more than 340 newspapers every Sunday.

The lead story that week (though not the cover, which belonged to Harry Potter) focused on how people can prevent medical errors. Part of the headline was the statement, “Almost 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable errors in hospitals,”

Yes, the Institute of Medicine statistic of 44,000 to 98,000 preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals each year, cited so often in the healthcare press since the 1999 publication of “To Err Is Human,” was right there for all of Parade’s estimated 79.9 million readers to see.

Author Tom Clavin leads with the story of Jesica Santillán, the 17-year-old from Mexico who died at Duke University Medical Center last year following a botched heart-lung transplant. That incident had the attention of national media for weeks and still resonates with the general public.

Clavin goes on to explain why medical errors happen and how one mistake can lead to numerous complications and long-term health problems. The story talks about error prevention through error reporting, better patient education and, yes, the use of technology, including electronic medical records and computerized physician order entry.

In a sidebar, Parade health editor Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld offers some tips for patients to protect themselves. Another Web-only addendum mentions the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Leapfrog Group, two entities that, I imagine, 99% or more of the public have never heard of.

Hopefully now, more will be aware of the importance of protecting one’s own safety when navigating the healthcare system. Pass this link around:

I have a few other recent developments to comment on, but I’ll write those separately so they do not get buried at the bottom of this entry.