Reporting from the 10th International Diagnostic Error in Medicine (DEM) conference. Day Two.
How many doctors, researchers, nurses, engineers, human factor specialists, cognitive scientists, professors, nonprofit organizers, government leaders, economists, administrators and laboratory experts does it take to improve diagnostic accuracy and timeliness? A heck of a lot it seems. And while they respectfully (for the most part) debate the best approaches and pathways to doing so, it seems they all agree with one dictum:
Patients Front & Center
It starts with us. If the patient isn't "in the room," it doesn't happen.
Speaker after speaker at the Diagnostic Error in Medicine conference has asserted that patients, which means everyone of you reading this post, need to participate or this revolution will happen without them. Without us. Without you!
Today's first keynote speaker, Donald M. Berwick, MD, runs the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass. Berwick has been present for, involved with, or a catalyst for every major advance in the march for patient safety. He shared a brief history of the movement; and it is brief because the movement is only 26 years old.
It's hard to believe that just a generation ago few in medicine feared for patients' safety until they learned how many needless deaths were caused by the very institutions created to save their lives. No one had ever measured how many were dying from errors in surgery, medications, diagnosis, and treatment, so no one had thought it necessary to fix the system.
Berwick said, "The four most dangerous words in healthcare are, "It cannot happen here." But it does, and it still will, every day, until all of the players team up to fix it. Berwick's advice to health care organizations of all kinds is to start by listening to the Patient Voice.
That means there have to be patients who are willing to engage and be engaged, to speak up and to listen, to participate, advocate, legislate, and learn. At the very least, it means learning how to manage your own healthcare needs. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine
has a terrific Patient Resource Center and a Patient Toolkit to help you prepare for doctor visits.
Or join your local hospital or health care system's Patient and Family Advisory Council. As a member, you can help bring perspective to the hospital's plans, quality and delivery of care. Most have one. If yours doesn't, then work with them to start one.
Share what you learn with others in your community. Write letters to your government representatives, your news sources, your Facebook friends. Write to me here or on my Facebook page.
There are a lot of powerful, fantastic patient voices out there but they can't do it alone.
Patients, Get Up There! Front & Center.