Groundbreaking book on medical mistakes

5 Feb 2004, University of California - San Francisco. Nearly five years after an Institute of Medicine report put medical mistakes on the public's radar screen, two UCSF Medical Center physicians have published a groundbreaking discussion of why errors occur and what health care providers and leaders must do to cure this epidemic.

The book, Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America's Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes, was published today by Rugged Land Publishers, New York.

One of the authors, Robert M. Wachter, MD, chief of the medical service and chair of the patient safety committee at UCSF Medical Center, will discuss the topic at a public forum on the UCSF campus as part of the UCSF Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

The event, which features Wachter in conversation with KQED's Michael Krasny, will take place Wednesday, February 25 at 7 PM. Tickets are $15. More information is available at http://lifelonglearning.ucsf.edu.

Wachter, also a UCSF professor of medicine, and co-author Kaveh G. Shojania, MD, UCSF assistant professor of medicine, have pioneered a case-based approach to teaching doctors, nurses, administrators and patients about medical mistakes.

Their case-based approach first appeared in a series in the Annals of Internal Medicine called 'Quality Grand Rounds,' and later in their federally-sponsored web-based medical errors journal, AHRQ WebM&M (http://webmm.ahrq.gov).

'In Internal Bleeding, we extend our approach of pulling back the curtain to discuss dramatic and compelling stories of medical mistakes, accompanied by evidence-based insights and research that points the way toward solutions,' said Wachter.

He explained that the book describes previously reported and well-known cases from clinics and hospitals around the country, such as a case in which a neurosurgeon operated on the wrong side of two different patients' brains and a case in which a Canadian woman had a crowbar-sized surgical instrument left in her abdomen.

Internal Bleeding also includes a dozen other cases gathered from around the country and presented anonymously.

They include the patient who received another patient's heart surgery because of a name mix-up, the ICU patient who had a seizure and died when an intravenous line was inadvertently flushed with a dose of insulin rather than a blood thinner, and the heart attack patient mistakenly and fatally discharged from the emergency room.

'Through these cases, we argue that faulty systems, rather than bad people, are responsible for most medical errors, and that fixing this epidemic will take new resources, approaches, culture, and training,' said Wachter.

'The cases are less horror stories of malfeasance or incompetence than cautionary tales about misguided priorities, mixed signals, and mass denial. They range from congressional decisions about what kinds of research to fund, to choices by hospitals about where to focus their attention and dollars, to judgments by medical and nursing schools about how to train the healers of tomorrow.'

Wachter and Shojania provide detailed recommendations about what physicians, nurses, hospital CEOs, regulators and policymakers can do. Among the suggestions:

1) create systems to prevent 'handoff' errors when patients or information are transferred from one place to another.

2) implement computerized solutions to prevent medication errors, and

3) transform the culture of hospitals, using models drawn from the aviation industry, to emphasize teamwork and create opportunities for learning after errors and near-misses.

The authors also include a checklist of questions that patients should ask their hospital, doctor, or health plan to be sure their providers are focusing on patient safety (available at www.ruggedland.com/internalbleeding).

'I am pleased that two of our faculty physicians who lead our patient safety initiatives at UCSF Medical Center have taken lessons learned from the book and put it to the use of saving lives.

Online Nursing Schools