Universities Turning to New Unconventional Strategies to Prevent Medical Errors

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A study by patient safety researchers published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2016 revealed that common medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Now, universities are looking to address this problem by focusing on ways of teaching students, clinicians and administrators to look at these problems in a new light.

Click here to read the study published in the BMJ.

Teaching a Martian to make a PB & J Sandwich.

These new programs focus on the importance of communicating medical directions. So, what does making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich have to do with preventing medical errors? Well, the program sheds new light on just how carefully worded medical directions need to be. For example, students in these new programs are directed to explain how to make the sandwich to someone who is completely unfamiliar with the English language, such as a Martian.

Simple directions become much more confusing to those who are not familiar with our ways of speaking. Donna Woods, an associate professor who directs this new course work, further elaborated on this concept by saying, “Invariably the student will write, ‘open the bag of bread’ and so the acting patient (the Martian) rips the bottom of the bag of bread instead of opening the twisty tie at the top of the bag.”

The new method is meant to teach the students that their directions can often be misunderstood and not carried out as intended. Therefore, medical professionals need to be aware of this and be very precise in their delivery of medical directions.

The Importance of Doctor-patient Communications.

The new course also focuses on doctor-patient communications and has implemented an unconventional method of teaching it. The class splits into two teams and are directed to build the tallest building possible. They are to build according to how the customer or in their case, the patient desires it. In this study, the patients were instructed to only reveal how they wanted their building to look if asked. This method highlights how in the hustle and bustle of the medical world, the act of asking patients what they need and want is often overlooked.

This type of course, paired with new methods, are designed to show students why the medical field can be so complicated and the ways in which they can improve it to avoid common medical errors.

To learn more on the dilemma of medical errors in the U.S., click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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Sweltlitz, Ike. “Teaching a Martian to make a sandwich helps clinicians catch medical errors.” The Boston Globe. (November 7, 2016). Web.

White, Jesse. “5 strategies for hospitals to prevent medical errors.” Healthcare Business Technology. (May 19, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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