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If you ran a summer camp that never reported the vast majority of times that you hurt one of your campers, you'd probably be shut down, arrested, or worse. The situation would be similar if a restaurant repeatedly made customers sick, or if a skydiving business habitually gave people the wrong parachutes.
Why, then, do hospitals only report about one in seven of the hundreds of thousands of medical errors, infections, and other adverse events that harm patients every year? And why can they get away with it?
That's a crucial question posed by Shannon Brownlee's most recent piece on TIME Ideas: An American Hospital: The Most Dangerous Place? Brownlee addresses the recent report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which catalogued problems with the reporting system for medical errors and other patient harm. She argues that the reporting problems are only a piece of a larger quality and safety problem, and that hospitals need to move quickly to adopt checklists and other types of safety mechanisms:
"Some hospitals have made great strides in reducing errors and infections using — you guessed it — checklists. About 10 years ago, Dr. Peter Pronovost, an intensive-care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and a team of colleagues put together a series of checklists for some of the most common procedures performed in the intensive-care unit. For example, they created a list of steps for how to put in a central line — a tube for delivering medication directly into a vein in the patient’s chest — in a way that reduced the risk of infection. They made a checklist to prevent patients on a ventilator, or breathing machine, from contracting pneumonia. When Pronovost was given a grant to get every ICU in the state of Michigan to use just three of his checklists, the result was 1,500 lives saved and the state of Michigan saved $100 million."
You can read the full story here: http://ideas.time.com/2012/01/09/american-hospitals-the-most-dangerous-place/