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Hospitals that foster a safety culture reduce medical mistakes

In last week's post we discussed the alarming number of medical malpractice incidents in the United States, and some of the reasons malpractice occurs. This week we will take a look at how hospitals can reduce the risk of surgical error by promoting a culture of safety within the organization.

When evaluating the quality of surgical care, hospitals often focus on the skills of surgeons and the equipment available in the operating room. But according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, a hospital's organizational culture can have a significant effect on surgical outcomes and patient safety.

The study evaluated the impact on patients of 12 factors associated with a safety culture. Researchers measured the factors' impact in connection with a single surgical complication, infection at the surgical site after a colon operation. The study found that 10 of the factors had a measurable impact on outcome. These included communication and feedback about errors; teamwork within and across units; openness of communication; management support of safe practices; and responding to errors in a non-punitive fashion.

The lead author of the study said an effective safety culture has three main characteristics: a willingness to learn from mistakes; a high level of interest in implementing the best safety practices; and staff collaboration in measuring performance.

When the absence of a culture of safety leads to hospital negligence, injured patients have the right to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit and recover damages. Evaluating the organization's safety culture may lead to an understanding of why doctor error occurred in a specific case.

Source:, "Hospital safety culture critical in improving surgical results," Dec. 9, 2015

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