American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Patient Safety, Patient Responsibility

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Back in fall of 1999, the Institute of Medicine published the landmark article "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System." Its most startling finding was that an estimated 44,000 patients - and maybe as many as 98,000 - were dying every year due to medical error. The equivalent of a jumbo jet crash every day for a year. In its wake, the modern patient safety movement took off, insisting on more accountability, more transparency, and changes to the systems that allowed fatal mistakes to take place. So 10 years after To Err Is Human ... what's changed?

Listen to this episode.

Segment 1 [0:00 - 11:20]
Dr. Paul Schyve: Patient Safety, Part I


Dr. Paul Schyve is a senior vice president at the Joint Commission. The joint commission accredits and certifies more than 17,000 private hospitals, health care organizations, and programs in the US.

A recent paper published in Health Affairs gave the health care industry a "B minus" on its safety efforts since 2004, which was obviously the five year anniversary of the landmark Institute of Medicine paper "To Err Is Human." Among the things the author notes as an area that requires great improvement is the industry's limited ability to measure progress in safety. Is there a movement toward greater disclosure and transparency in the industry? 

Segment 2 [11:20 - 17:40]
Dr. Thomas Russell: Patient Safety, Part II


It's the 10th anniversary of an Institute of Medicine paper that served as a major wake-up call for American hospitals and physicians and acted as the catalyst for the modern patient safety movement. The paper, "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System," estimated that tens of thousands of patients were dying every year due to medical error.

Dr. Tom Russell is the former executive director of the American College of Surgeons, the world's largest organization of surgeons. Russell is also the author of the recent book "I Need an Operation ... Now What?"

Segment 3 [17:40 - 28:00]
Dr. Thomas Russell: Patient Responsibility


It's important, obviously, to choose a surgeon who has the expertise for your operation, but what is the right and responsibility of a patient to know about the experience of the surgeon. What should the surgeon disclose, what should the patient ask? Is this important?