Kathleen Finlay is founder and CEO of The Center for Patient Protection, helping to capture the wisdom of patients and families in combating medical errors and reducing emotional harm in the hospital setting.
Previously involved in public policy and capital markets regulation, Kathleen's career took a sudden and unexpected turn following the six-month hospitalization of her elderly mother. It was an experience that made Kathleen determined to play a role in changing a system that is too often lacking in transparency and accountability and leaves too many patients and families injured and devastated by the emotional harm of medical errors. Today she is recognized as a leading voice for patients and families in the campaign to reduce medical errors, and for the significant benefits and cost savings that safer care and reduced incidents of emotional harm can produce.
Kathleen is a frequent media commentator on healthcare and patient safety issues. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canadians who experience medical harm at the hands of the health-care system they pay for are often chagrined to learn that, if they pursue their legal remedies in court, they are also footing the bill to defend the very physicians they claim have harmed them. Now it seems that Canadian taxpayers have been victimized by this system, too.
A recent Canadian study for all provinces except Quebec reported that one in 18 hospitalized patients experienced avoidable medical errors in 2014 - 2015. In the U.S., it is estimated that 15 million...
Health-care cultures that will not acknowledge or admit to medical errors, and therefore fail to learn from them, or permit expressions of resentment and disrespect by care teams (and administrators) to patients and families seeking information are the very antithesis of what patients need and what a caring society should accept.
You expect that casinos are going to be slanted in favour of the house. But you don't imagine those kind of odds when it comes to complaints about hospitals and health-care providers that may have caused avoidable medical or emotional harm.
While our hospitals save lives every day, they are also the third leading cause of avoidable death every year. In Canada, medical errors and hospital-acquired infections claim between 30,000 and 60,000 lives annually. Thousands more are injured. But to the public, these incidents are largely invisible.
The sense of disrespect many encounter in their efforts to protect a hospitalized loved one is often compounded by the emotional trauma that comes later with a feeling of abandonment in a sea of unanswered questions.
A recent report from one of the most respected medical authorities in the world, is yet another jolting reminder that reducing harm to patients and families remains one of the foremost challenges facing our healthcare systems.
My experience is that patients and families who have been harmed by medical errors in the hospital setting have a lot to offer about what needs to be done to make the system safer. Many are especially articulate about the emotional harm their experience caused.
In Canada, it's not clear to what extent inpatient suicides, or unsuccessful attempts that lead to disability, are considered "never events" by healthcare decision makers, or who is keeping track of them for that matter. The fact is there is a wall of secrecy that surrounds hospital suicide and attempts at self-harm in Canada.
A new Canadian study shows that age is a critical factor in the kind of treatment patients receive. According to the research, which involved patients with traumatic spinal cord injuries, "patients over 70 years of age experienced considerable delays between admission and surgery."
Visit any major city in North America and you will quickly discover the link between cash and name recognition in healthcare. Some rich person gives a few million to an urban hospital and their name goes up on a wing. Recently, a generous $3 million donation to Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital was celebrated in a full-page advertisement in Canada's national newspape
the Canadian Medical Protective Association says it is "valued as an essential component of the Canadian healthcare system." But for patients who have experienced injury at the hands of a doctor, this organization looks more like the Darth Vader of the medico-legal system.
In the U.S., the Center for Patient Protection recently reviewed the data top hospital rating organizations provide about hospital safety performance. They cover the smallest community hospitals right up to the biggest teaching facilities, in a format where access to the information is quick and user-friendly. You won't find similar information anywhere in Canada.
A government agency in Ontario has called for nursing homes in that province to re-evaluate their use of antipsychotic medications like quetiapine (marketed under the brand name Seroquel). What is missing from these studies and investigations, however, is what is happening with these drugs in hospitals. I learned about Seroquel, like so many patients and families have, the hard way.
As consumers, we've long insisted on having access to information about the products we buy -- whether they're automobiles or coffee makers. The same transparency pressures are now overtaking the healthcare sector. Except in Canada.
When patients cannot be fully engaged with their care and the decisions being made, that responsibility becomes the family's. There is no more precious gift you can give your mom or dad than the gift of hospital safety. My mother's doctors repeatedly warned that her demise was imminent. Without a vigilant family, it would have been.
This will be my mother's fifth Christmas since her life-altering injury and a hospitalization that produced a cascade of incidents and a record number of medical errors that left her many times at death's door.
Patient Protection Canada has heard from families across the country and beyond about their horrible hospital experiences. Almost none ever received an apology. That cold, hard reality is backed up by my own experience involving the lengthy hospitalization of my elderly mother a few years ago. Despite raising a number of questions and concerns about these and other matters, and never even hinting at legal action, no apology was ever forthcoming from this major hospital.
It's no longer a matter of discretion on the part of employers to permit smoking in the workplace. Why? Because its effects are known to be toxic. Sexual harassment can be no less toxic to those affected. It's time our political leaders got that message. They need to stop allowing employers, including governments themselves, to turn a blind eye when sexual harassment and reprisals occur, and put in place tough laws that really protect women.
If a woman decides to leave the organization because of what she perceives to be a lingering toxic atmosphere, she will often have problems finding another job. Why? Nobody gets a good reference from an employer that was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint. Yet, human rights tribunals and the courts have made reprisals for asserting the right to be free from sexual harassment one of the most difficult types of discrimination to prove.