My friend Helen Haskell forwarded two articles of big interest to those of us who wish hospitals were safer places to be sick or hurt.
Putting Staff in Charge of Safety
The first is the cover story from Hospitals and Health Network Magazine called “Can Your Nurses Stop a Surgeon?” It tells the tale of a surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center who, ready to operate on his patient, was told by the nurses and surgical technician that he was not allowed to move forward because he had not yet let them run through their pre-surgical safety check, called a “Time Out.”
The surgeon, furious, reached for the scalpel anyway — and found it had been removed from the instrument tray by the staff. Even more furious he stomped out of the OR and contacted the CEO of the hospital — only to find himself dismissed from service, his privileges removed from all 10 of the Advocate hospitals.
It turns out that the surgical safety check is only one example of how Advocate Illinois has put its systems where it’s mouth is. It will be some time, I’m sure, before they can measure its success, but the idea of making everyone responsible, and giving everyone the “clout” needed to make safety happen can only be a positive thing — regardless of how that particular surgeon feels about it.
The ability for any of the medical staff to ask for a safety check is an excellent form of permission and accountability. It can also provide confidence among staff members to hold doctors responsible, too. We hear stories all the time about the arrogant doctor who puts nurses and other staff in their places. I see this accountability system as a way to make sure staff will have the confidence to put that doctor back in his/her place — to the benefit of the patient.
Discouraging Hospitals from Hiring Dirty Doctors
A second report comes from the American Medical Association. It addresses a recent decision in Minnesota’s Supreme Court that says that when a hospital hires a physician with questionable qualifications, (previous known medical errors, marks against his/her license, lost lawsuits) the hospital can be sued if that doctor hurts a patient.
It turns out that 28 states in the US have a similar law requiring accountability on the parts of hospitals that hire (what I call) dirty doctors. Here are the states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Two states have rejected this type of legislation: Delaware and Kansas
So how can patients use this information?
Patients who live in the Chicago area and face surgery might consider the Advocate hospitals as a good choice for surgery — although — I could find no information about their infection rate records, and of course, that’s a big deal. Hospital infections are among the biggest safety problems. Presumably the behaviors changed in the safety environment at these hospitals would address infections, too. Consider asking your doctor for those infection rates before entering their hospitals — or any hospitals.
Regarding hospital accountability for Dirty Doctors — it’s only a start. Tomorrow I’ll blog about another story from yesterday’s news, and what it means to patients who need information about these Dirty Doctors.
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