Sorry alone doesn’t work unless we learn from our mistakes.

By ThinkReliability Staff

The title is a quote from Timothy McDonald, a pediatric anesthesiologist and the chief safety officer of the University of Illinois Medical Center, discussing medical errors, which are now estimated to kill as many as 98,000 Americans a year.

“We have to also make promises that this won’t happen again and get patients and families engaged in the effort to improve our performance.”

The University of Illinois Medical Center, along with other medical facilities, has made great efforts to communicated with grieving family members after medical mistakes, and getting those family members involved with helping prevent future mistakes.

One of the changes implemented requires an x-ray of patients at risk for foreign objects retained after surgery. So far, the x-rays have found 8 foreign objects found left in patients , despite a manual count that claimed all the sponges were accounted for.

Some experts worry that the “increased candor” with families may increase the number of lawsuits. Dr. McDonald says that, though the number of procedures at the University of Illinois Medical Center have increased 23% since the program was implemented, the number of lawsuits has decreased 40%.

To many family members of victims of medical errors, it’s not about the money; it’s about making sure nobody else will suffer from the same mistake. Allowing these family members (or the victims themselves) to help improve the processes that led to the errors may ease their concerns. (View the news article in the Wall Street Journal.)