Reduce medical errors in the healthcare sector

Every day, as a doctor in private practice, I listen to the stories of patients’ medical misadventures. I tend to eliminate stories of failed procedures, ignored symptoms, and deep betrayal by medical service providers. To be clear, each of these cases is unique because each of these human beings is unique. Unfortunately, the current medical system does not treat these humans as unique.

Many patients feel they are on the conveyor belt of modern medicine, being quickly pushed in and out without care and attention. I am not saying that doctors have been negligent, but the system they serve conflicts with their duty to be a health care practitioner and to serve the patients they have trained to help. The constraints of paperwork or insurance regulations impose additional demands on doctors, which are passed on to patients, and patients feel unheard, neglected and rarely served.

Young female doctor with patient in clinic covering mouth with hand, shocked and afraid by mistake. surprised expression

Source: Krakenimages / Adobe, Steele, used with permission

How do patients process pain for being medically ignored when this happens? After all, they don’t truly understand the intricacies of the healthcare system, nor do they know the limitations of the provider. On the contrary, they assume that the white coat automatically guarantees the answers to their complex medical mysteries. However, they are further limited to providers or the healthcare system imposed by their insurance, which can complicate matters further as many healthcare practices have practice-specific standards that providers must meet to fit the context of care.

If a patient leaves the office feeling disappointed, there are a few things to consider. First, in a recent study, it was shown that many medical errors occur due to communication errors. Do the patient and the operator communicate effectively with each other? Is the patient clearly explaining their health problems and is the doctor listening for clues outside of typical considerations?

Suppose the provider is unable to satisfy the patient’s fears. Are they willing to be humble, to admit their limitations, or even to apologize for not being able to serve the patient they have been entrusted to serve? Many patients want and expect not only explanations but also apologies after a medical error. Getting one can lessen the feelings of guilt, anger and resentment as the vendor admits to their humanity. In this way humanity, trust and the general doctor-patient relationship can be improved. A recent study showed that nurses would also support full disclosure of medical errors to the patient.

There are biases in health care, with many providers not being educated about particular health issues that reflect a person’s ethnicity, cultural preferences, or philosophical concerns. They may also ignore this aspect of care, which can leave patients unheard, unseen and emotionally hurt. Finding a supplier who understands your cultural background and needs can be helpful, but if you are prejudiced, educating the supplier about your cultural needs is essential. Providers need further education, and if they aren’t willing to get it in a CEU classroom, patients can be valuable teachers.

The relationship with your doctor or health care provider is deeply personal. It is vital that you feel comfortable with your supplier. Believe it or not, a provider works for you and you are in partnership with the provider. The provider is there to serve you in several ways. The provider is there to inform you about your health condition, educate you on what needs to be done, and hold you accountable for achieving your health goals.

You won’t always like what a supplier has to say, but if he’s accurate and spends time with you, he probably won’t make a medical mistake. When providers move too fast and make quick assumptions, they often ignore your symptoms and root causes, generalize your concerns, and provide you with simple treatment.

Drobot Dean / Adobe, Steele, used with permission

Picture of female doctor and young patient talking in hospital room

Source: Drobot Dean / Adobe, Steele, used with permission

Trusting yourself and intuition is essential. If something doesn’t sound good, feels good, or feels right, ask for a second or third opinion. Sometimes gaining different perspectives can inspire you to do something about your health.

Realize that there is a balance between being in denial and a medical error. Just because you don’t like what a doctor tells you doesn’t mean it’s wrong, which is why the relationship between a doctor and a patient is sacred. There is an unspoken trust between the two. The patient must be willing to listen and accept what is uncomfortable, and the provider must be willing to communicate so that the patient can hear uncomfortable news. This is a delicate balance. Requires a bond. A sacred bond. One that needs attention to detail.

Medical errors are estimated to account for up to 251,000 deaths per year in the United States, making them the third leading cause of death. Error rates are significantly higher than in any other developed country and less than 10% of medical errors are reported.

It is not always the provider’s fault if an error has occurred. In the collaboration between the patient and the provider, there must be transparency on both sides, created by clear communication on the part of both, the removal of bias and / or education in cultural and philosophical preferences. Feeling comfortable and cultivating a safe space with your provider that allows for education, coaching and accountability is the key to exchanging information.

Finally, trusting yourself and your intuition while receiving complex information is a delicate balance. It may not be easy to hear about your health, but if you trust the provider, you get the information, as they are trained to support you in the healing process.

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