WHO Patient Safety

The main pillars of Patient Safety

Understanding the causes of medical errors and finding solutions


Research on Patient Safety has been mainly focused on both the causes of medical errors and countermeasures to deal with those errors. Though the causes of medical errors can derive from human factors (staff fatigue, lack of attention, poor decision making, lack of knowledge or awareness on a particular issue, etc.), research shows that most instances are linked mainly with system failures as a whole, such as poor communication between staff, faulty hospital procedures, and inefficient work schedules. To reduce risk and opportunity for error, research has explored several strategies including "Pay for Performance" programs to create incentives to doctors with good records of patient care. New protocol and industrial standards in other markets are imitated to deal with critical care points, such as surgery or intensive care wards, and have shown progress in reducing patient risk.


In this relation, the airline industry is often cited as an ideal model to imitate as one of the safest industries with a low incident rate. One of the main characteristics of the airline industry in terms of its error prevention policy is the preponderance of reporting of every incident or even a near miss (i.e. an unexpected event that did not produce any harm but that could have had the potential to cause harm. For example, two planes escaping collision). Analysis of the incident leads to an improvement in the airline industry's operation system and therefore reducing or eliminating the risk of incident. Various state healthcare agencies in particular have shown great interest in implementing similar mandatory incident reporting procedures to minimize the risk of medical care error.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 November 2011 06:19