Why Does the World Continue to Struggle with Preventable Patient Harm?


Patient safety is something every healthcare organization wants to improve upon, especially with the shift to value-based care. However, most are missing the mark with preventable patient harm and truly being patient-centric. Discussing the topic today, B2B Today host Daniel Litwin spoke with Dr. Donna Prosser, Chief Clinical Officer of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation, a nonprofit that’s goal to reach zero preventable patient harm and deaths. The company will host the #UniteForSafeCare event on World Patient Day on September 17.

“There had been success in improving patient safety, but that fell apart during COVID because there was a hyper-focus. It comes down to the lack of a high-reliability foundation,” Dr. Prosser noted.

“Hospitals are businesses and concerned about public image and marketability. That sustains a culture of silence where no one talks about the issues.” – Dr. Donna Prosser

Dr. Prosser argued that while organizations say they are patient-focused, the processes and structure of healthcare is clinician-focused. That could be why some clinicians seem to make numerous errors undetected, as seen in the upcoming TV show Dr. Death, which centers on a real neurosurgeon’s medical incompetence.

“This is at the far end of the spectrum, but other situations happen regularly because of the way the system is set up. Transparency, openness, and trust aren’t there. People saw this behavior and didn’t feel comfortable voicing it or hit a wall if they did,” Dr. Prosser explained.

This “culture of silence” is what perpetuates preventable patient harm. That’s reflected in research. One survey found that 6% of patients were affected, while another from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that four in 10 patients suffered some harm.

So, what’s the answer to address preventable harm? Dr. Prosser said, “No one can do it alone. All stakeholders have to be at the table. We have to band together, shine a light on it, address it, and create those highly reliable systems. It will require culture change.”

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