March 2-8, 2014 is Patient Safety Awareness Week sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). With the theme of “Navigate Your Health…Safely”, the Foundation urges stakeholders to focus on the first step in the healthcare process – the diagnosis. It is estimated that misdiagnoses may account for 40,000-80,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Given these staggering statistics, it is no surprise that NPSF’s mission is not only to raise the collective consciousness, but to effectively reduce those figures. The lionshare of those efforts have been through the dissemination of educational resources. These can be found on NPSF’s website and are targeted to healthcare professionals or to the patients they serve. While diagnosis may signal the start of the patient- care provider relationship, nonetheless diagnosis should not be seen as a static point in time. Instead it should be refined and even reevaluated for the duration of the treatment, especially when that treatment involves rehabilitation.
It is a proven fact that cognitive biases can lead to misdiagnoses in medical settings. But changing those biases is not simple, requiring professionals to adopt a multi-staged plan of action. Too often the clinician is unaware of their own judgmental biases, couched as they are in years of education and/or experience. Nonetheless, a 1998 study by Bornstein and Yaniv suggests that group wisdom often trumps individual rationale. Since ACA’s emphasis on outcomes now finds doctors, nurses, rehab pros and social workers locked in a team effort to improve patient care, couldn’t this teamwork represent the ultimate system of checks and balances to reduce diagnostic errors and save more lives? As a rehab professional have you encountered instances where the input of others has led to a refinement of your therapeutic plan? What successful patient safety strategies have you employed? Leave your comments on our Facebook page.