How Hospitals Need To Use New Ideas To Change Their Existing System

To err is human, agreed but how accepting are we, when it comes to forgiving and forgetting the mistakes? And what if the mistakes result in the life of a loved one? How do hospitals deal with this scenario?

A recent article in The Economist spoke at length about hospitals need to resort to industry practices and behavioural science to heal and correct their system to minimise errors and mistakes from their end. The article states that according to a study by America’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, deaths due to medical errors was over 98,000 in the States- double as compared to the number of deaths due to road accidents! The article also states that a 2017 study revealed that 10% of patients are “harmed at some point during their stay in the hospital”. There is also a study from WHO in 2010 that states that rates of hospital-acquired infections were much higher in poorer countries. As difficult as it is to believe these facts, digesting the cause of such deaths is even more difficult.

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This article suggests that hospitals today, worldwide, need to learn the art from two other industries- manufacturing and aviation. Here is what the writer suggests:

  1. “Lean” is one of the popular industrial-management theories taken from manufacturing. It suggests that hospitals should study a patient’s “flow” through the building much as a car is monitored through the production line. That way bottlenecks and other inefficiencies can be spotted.
  2. The use of checklists like those used by pilots has become commonplace. Before cutting a patient open, surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses go through a simple exercise to ensure they have the right equipment (and the right patient), know the operation to be performed and understand the risks.
  3. Over the past few years behavioural scientists have begun to try to nudge doctors to make better decisions by studying and acting upon their inherent biases. “Default bias”, the tendency to accept the status quo, is powerful in clinical settings.
  4. Streams, an app developed by DeepMind, an artificial-intelligence company owned by Google’s parent, is on trial at the Royal Free hospital in London. It is currently being used to alert doctors and nurses more quickly to patients at risk of acute kidney injury, a potentially fatal condition often first detected by blood tests rather than by a patient’s feeling unwell.

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To read the entire article by John McDermott and Natasha Loder, click here.