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Healthcare Barriers to Patient Safety, Case Study Example

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Words: 672

Case Study

In Chapter Eleven, “Patient Safety and Medical Errors,” Griffin and Haraden (2008) note that although the quest for patient safety dominates the concerns of most medical professionals, there are occasions when negative outcomes occur, whether through human, technical, or technological error. The fear of medical errors has been expressed by healthcare professionals and patients alike, as demonstrated by the landmark 2000 study To Err is Human, which found that negative medical outcomes such as drug interactions and adverse events had contributed to over 98 000 annual deaths in the United States (Griffin & Haraden, 2008). Although some in the medical community claimed that these numbers were inflated, further American and international studies demonstrated that medical errors tend to be under-reported.  This further complicates the ability of health care professionals to meet patient safety standards because the reluctance to discuss issues surrounding medical errors does not address the root causes of many medical errors, including lack of training, doctor fatigue, and other preventable elements.

While much of the responsibility for ensuring patient safety rests with healthcare professionals, Griffin and Haraden (2008) have determined that the manner in which these practitioners perceive medical errors effects whether or not they are appropriately dealt with. This means that if doctors believe that an error was unpreventable, than they are less likely to take preventative measures in the future, thus creating an unnecessary and prolonged barrier to patient safety. Errors at the execution stage of medical interventions have a direct impact on the health and well-being, whereas those that occur in the planning stages may be caught and corrected without compromising the patient’s care. However, the planning and execution stages have implications for overall patient safety given that they both speak to potential problems within the organization as a whole.  As Griffin and Haraden point out, traditional responses to medical error have been to blame the individual directly at fault through license revocation and other professional censures. This action “prevents a deeper understanding of the real drivers of the event and mistakenly allows organizations and patients to feel safer until the same event occurs again but with different actors” (2008, p. 245). The punitive measures that often accompany medical errors reduces the likelihood that such errors will be reported, which means that the systemic barriers to patient safety often remain unaddressed.

Patient safety is further compromised by an organizational approach which emphasizes the need for research, often when it is unnecessary (Griffin and Haraden, 2008).  Although research offers many opportunities for growth within the healthcare system, it can also result in already scarce resources being spread too thin amongst overworked and fatigued healthcare professionals.  These issues are linked to the economic factors which further act as barriers to patient safety as hospital administrators attempt to deal with funding, staffing, and malpractice issues, all of which distract from the pressing need to address the individual and systemic factors which lead to and exacerbate instances of medical errors.  Unsafe practices within the hospital environment continue to lack priority amongst hospital administrators and CEOs, who fail to grasp the financial effects of insurance settlements, malpractice suits, and other unnecessary costs could be prevented if only patient safety was handled with as much attention as annual budget statements and financial reviews (Griffin and Haraden, 2008).

Despite the large scope of issues surrounding patient safety, it is not an insurmountable problem.  Currently, American anaesthesia departments have excellent safety records, due primarily to the amount of attention that has been put into dealing with both individual and systemic issues concerning safe practices (Griffin & Haraden, 2008).  In order to overcome substantial barriers to patient safety in a system that is essentially “broken” (Griffin & Haraden, 2008, p.247) and change will only come when all members of the healthcare team take a vested interest in improving safe practices in an increasingly complex and demanding environment.

References

Griffin, F.A. & Haraden, C. (2008). Patient safety and medical errors. In E.R Ransom & M.S.   Joshi (Eds) The Healthcare quality book: Vision, strategy, and tools. (243-268). Chicago, IL: Health Administration Press.

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