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Medical errors kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets a week. A surgeon with five simple ways to make health care safer.

Whether it’s ObamaCare, RomneyCare, or I Don’t Care, the true way to improve our healthcare system is by having the industry itself make the change.  Over history, government steps in or unions are formed when the company or industry refuse to do the right thing.

But this is the age of the internet and instant information.  It’s the age where the consumer has more control than ever before and it’s those industries and organizations that understand and embrace that idea that are the pioneering paradigm shifters today (think Zappos.com, Costco, Whole Foods, Google)

I’m not a fan of going to the government to fix our social, environmental, or economic problems.  In fact, the less government intervention (which I believe is corrupted through crony capitalism and special interest groups), the better.  I believe that if given enough good information, American citizens will migrate to support those organizations that serve them best..  It’s the beauty of American capitalism and competition.  And with age of instant information via the internet intersecting with the Age of Meaning for American workers and consumers, it’s time that we start holding our healthcare systems more accountable and demanding more accountability.

Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and lead developer of the surgical checklists adopted by the World Health Organization has written this brilliant article  for the Wall Street Journal that details five programs that can foster greater transparency in healthcare that will yield better outcomes and reduced costs.

As a seasoned practitioner of Covey’s “The Speed of Trust”, it reminds me of the simple equation that continue to prove out time and again:  High Trust = High Speed and Low Cost.

Durkheim said it best, “When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary.    When mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.”

Please read the full article.  Here are some excerpts:

When there is a plane crash in the U.S., even a minor one, it makes headlines. There is a thorough federal investigation, and the tragedy often yields important lessons for the aviation industry. Pilots and airlines thus learn how to do their jobs more safely.

The world of American medicine is far deadlier: Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. But these mistakes go largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the medical community rarely learns from them. The same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and patients are left in the dark about which hospitals have significantly better (or worse) safety records than their peers.

As doctors, we swear to do no harm. But on the job we soon absorb another unspoken rule: to overlook the mistakes of our colleagues. The problem is vast. U.S. surgeons operate on the wrong body part as often as 40 times a week. Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America—just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer’s. The human toll aside, medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year. Some 20% to 30% of all medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to research done by medical specialists, surveying their own fields. What other industry misses the mark this often?

It does not have to be this way. A new generation of doctors and patients is trying to achieve greater transparency in the health-care system, and new technology makes it more achievable than ever before.

Political partisans can debate the role of government in fixing health care, but for either public or private approaches to work, transparency is the crucial prerequisite. To make transparency effective, government must play a role in making fair and accurate reports available to the public. In doing so, it will unleash the power of the free market as patients are better able to take charge of their own care. When hospitals have to compete on measures of safety, all of them will improve how they serve their patients.

Transparency can also help to restore the public’s trust. Many Americans feel that medicine has become an increasingly secretive, even arrogant, industry. With more transparency—and the accountability that it brings—we can address the cost crisis, deliver safer care and improve how we are seen by the communities we serve. To do no harm going forward, we must be able to learn from the harm we have already done.

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So here’s my question:  Are there any courageous and pioneering health systems out there today that can serve as a case study of how to improve their outcomes through this type of transparency that Dr. Makary suggests?

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