Campaign launched to decrease medical mishaps
The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) wants to bring more openness and discussion about errors in treatment at Finnish hospitals, and an analysis of risky situations.
The institute calculates that in Finland between 700 and 1,700 deaths are linked with errors in treatment.
This month THL is launching a new programme promoting patient safety, in cooperation with hospitals, health care centres, professional organisations and labour unions. The aim is to halve the number of harmful events and patient deaths linked with errors in treatment by 2020.
If the goal is implemented, cost savings are estimated to be at least EUR 500 million a year.
At present, errors in treatment impose costs of about a billion euros a year, stemming from extended hospital stays and the need for more medicines.
Professor Emeritus Amos Pasternack, who has studied the frequency of errors in treatment, says that the number of deaths related to treatment error is high because it involves human activity.
Sometimes there is not enough personnel available, and everyone is in a hurry. When patients are transferred from one location to another, there can be failures in communicating vital information.
“Places where information should be transferred are sensitive to errors.”
Pasternack feels that openness the best way to reduce mishaps. Instead of being hushed up, errors that occur should be discussed openly so that staff can learn from them.
Dr. Anneli Milén, the director of the THL programme, says that with each event involving an error in treatment it is important to analyse what went wrong. Risky situations need to be recognised before anything happens, because a small error can easily snowball.
“A patient falls, gets a cerebral haemorrhage, and dies. Why? He was walking with his socks on. Why? The nurse had not given him slippers. Why? There were no slippers. Why? No slippers were ordered. Why? Someone was expected to remember it, even though it should be automatic.”
Anneli Milén points out that patient safety is a matter for all professional groups working in a hospital. The aim of the programme is to open people’s eyes.
“A hospital infection that kills a patient who was healthy when coming to the hospital is an issue for everyone – the cleaners, the nurses, the doctors, and the administrators.”
Patients who suffer as a result of errors in treatment can apply for compensation from the Finnish Patient Insurance Centre, which paid out a total of EUR 32.6 million in compensation last year.
Procedures most susceptible to errors include artificial joint surgery of the hips and knees, and orthopaedic surgery for fractures of the extremities. Last year, less compensation was paid for funeral expenses than in the four previous years.
In 2010 the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (VALVIRA) received 194 complaints about treatment of patients who had died. In about a third of the complaints VALVIRA found that improper treatment had been involved.
Systematic efforts to reduce industrial accidents and traffic accidents have paid off. Milén hopes that the new programme will also be successful in cutting down on errors in medical treatment.
Patient Insurance Centre