Posted by Bill Sandweg on 27 March 2017.
Hospitals are complicated places. While they always strive to deliver quality patient care, mistakes happen and hospital administrators who are honest will admit they happen too often. Hospitals have programs in place to try and get better. State and federal government agencies have programs in place to help hospitals get better. In spite of these programs, there is more that can be done. A novel program that is showing real results involves hospitals informally reviewing each other and making suggestions for improvement – improvements that will help patients and reduce medical mistakes and malpractice.
Whether you are a restaurant manager or a hospital administrator, when the government inspector shows up, you get nervous. No matter how hard you have worked to meet standards, you know something may have slipped by. You also know that if the inspector finds something amiss, there could be very severe consequences for your business. For these reasons, there is not much incentive for you to direct the inspector to the problem areas that concern you and ask for feedback. Better to keep quiet, keep your certificate of compliance, and try to solve your problems on your own. While this is perfectly understandable and human, it does not do much to advance food or patient safety.
It was in recognition of these problems associated with the human condition that some hospitals, notably Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, have begun a program in which hospitals partner with other hospitals in the quest to learn from each other and to make each other better. Each hospital appoints a team of doctors and related personnel in a particular area. Each team visits the hospital of the other to review operations, to share information, and to discuss issues. Because there is no judging, because there are no penal consequences, team members at the hospital being visited can be candid about their processes and the issues they are facing. Because any advice they receive is coming from a colleague who understands their problems and has faced the same problems, the advice is more readily accepted than if it were to come from an investigating agency or from some entity perceived as not understanding the practical problems of delivering care.
The physicians and administrators at Hopkins who have participated in these exchanges praise them and point to positive results. The wheel need not be reinvented, it can be copied from someone who has figured out a better way than you. Needless to say, anything that hospitals do to better themselves and the care they deliver benefits the patients who receive that care. Hospitals such as Johns Hopkins should be congratulated for thinking about new ways to improve themselves and improve patient safety.