Next week I will be at the board meeting for the National Patient Safety Foundation. From there, the NPSF Congress which is a yearly event that attracts patient safety leadership from all throughout the country, and very often other countries. The NPSF was the first group of almost all medical professionals and hospital administrators who thought the patient’s voice was important to patient’s safety – but also gave us a voice.

About eight survivors of bad medical outcomes like myself gathered in 1999 at an early conference of about 200 people. They were mostly risk managers and others representing the medical field. I heard first hand from doctors and hospital administrators who also experienced the loss of family and colleagues at the hands of medical professionals. Many who were overworked, distracted, didn’t have the right tools or information to do the best for their patients.

I remember learning how it is the system that is at fault, usually not an individual and how systems in healthcare are not built to avoid injury. Healthcare is often compared to the airline industry and if we looked at the airline industry we could improve.

For one thing, it doesn’t matter what airline you use, Delta, United, Jet Blue, the safety policy, going into the plane is the same. We are screened the same and we remove our shoes, belts and laptops. If there is a problem at Delta, every airline changes policy and learn from the incident. In hospitals, in most cases the problems are handled internally and repaired. Flyers are shown safety video’s or are asked to read the safety handout before flying. In hospitals we are lucky to find safety literature in our admission packets when we get home from surgery.

The airlines interview the passengers. Hospitals have been known to close the doors when patients have questions after a bad outcome. The pilot dies if there is a crash, doctors don’t.

Since 1996, even before I went to my first patient safety conference I have been teaching the public about patient safety. What we, as the patient need to know to participate in our care to stay safe. In the past 15 years much has happened in healthcare and the patient and their families voice is being heard louder and more clearly. We have a unique opportunity to continue growing on the popularity of patient’s voices.

To learn more about patient safety and how you can be involved vist or call (516) -579-4711

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