27 January 2005


A consulting group called VitalSmarts which interviewed 1,700 nurses, doctors, hospital administrators released their results yesterday and said that "eighty percent of U.S. doctors and half of nurses surveyed said they had seen colleagues make mistakes."

Survey Finds 80 Percent of U.S. Doctors Witness Mistakes
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 05:08 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eighty percent of U.S. doctors and half of nurses surveyed said they had seen colleagues make mistakes, but only 10 percent ever spoke up, according to a study released on Wednesday.

These mistakes are undoubtedly contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of people who die from medical errors in the United States each year, the researchers and experts on nursing said.

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers need to be less shy about speaking up about mistakes, incompetent colleagues and other problems that can hurt patients, the report said.

Healthcare workers who do speak up are not only able to nip the problem in the bud, but are also happier in their own work, said Joseph Grenny, president of consulting group VitalSmarts, which conducted the survey.

Grenny's team surveyed 1,700 nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and other experts for the study.

"Fifty percent of nurses said they have colleagues who appear incompetent," Grenny told a meeting of clinical care nurses.

"Eighty-four percent of physicians and 62 percent of nurses and other clinical care providers have seen co-workers taking shortcuts that could be dangerous to patients," he added.

The survey found that 88 percent of doctors and 48 percent of nurses and other workers felt they worked with colleagues who showed poor clinical judgment.

A 1999 study by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine found that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors in hospitals. Last July, Lakewood, Colorado-based HealthGrades Inc. said the true number was closer to 195,000 people a year.

The errors include giving patients the wrong drug or the wrong dose, surgical errors and spreading germs through unhygienic practices.

[Reuters Health]

Read the full results of the study here.

If this can happen in the US, what about here?

I fear it's a lot worse. And no one is even conducting a study or a survey to document it.

All we have here are anecdotal evidences which get into the limelight only when the news networks find it spectacular enough to be covered and thus might make their ratings soar or their newspapers to sell like hotcakes.

No one is really looking into these things.

I also believe that the true reasons for committing medical errors on the part of the health personnel go beyond the obvious reasons of lacking enough sleep or having a killer schedule and being understaffed. Those are valid reasons, alright, but there are also other important causes of medical mistakes that must be addressed like incompetence and lack of empathy to patients' conditions.

Want an example?

Go to my tag-board and see what my friend delish relates there. Of course, you might qualify her complaint as purely conjectural or speculatory, but I myself have witnessed such events in the past, and I believe what she says is true.

What must be done?

Pass Senate Bill 588 or the Patients' Rights Bill? Personally, I don't think it will be enacted or passed to become a real law. Besides, it might not really answer the real problems.

I believe the government or any other (courageous) private consulting firm should conduct a study like the one done by VitalSmarts above (why can't the SWS and others do it?) to document the extent of medical mistakes here, and be able to pinpoint the causes.

And as in any problem-solving task, address the causes, propose solutions, and act on it.....

....before more innocent patients die not because of their ailments but because of preventable medical mistakes.

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