New patient safety program goal: no preventable deaths

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – When you think about causes of death, heart disease and cancer often come to mind. But there’s another cause that many of us might never consider: medical errors.

Hospital medical errors are blamed for an astounding 700 deaths per day in the U-S. Two NEPA doctors are helping lead the charge to improve patient safety.

Before medical students at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine ever slip on their white coats, there is much to learn. Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine Assistant Chair for Internal Medicine Dr. Margrit Shoemaker, MD addressed several of them on Thursday saying, “You’re very busy learning all of your basic sciences and how to do physical exams and interview patients.”

A lesson that must not be overlooked is how to avoid preventable deaths. “We know that hospitals are not as safe as they need to be. We know that the third leading cause of death in the United States is preventable medical error,” said Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine President/Dean Dr. Steven Scheinman, MD. 

It’s why Doctors Scheinman and Shoemaker co-chaired a task force that developed a new comprehensive patient safety curriculum. The program includes eight domains considered essential to patient safety. Chief among them are teamwork and communication. Dr. Shoemaker said, “They have impact on all other domains. They are ubiquitous across the field of patient safety.” Dr. Scheinman added, 
“Some people have estimated that 80 percent of medical errors arise from poor communication.”

The program will educate not only future and existing health care providers but also the very people teaching them. Dr. Scheinman said, “Our concept is that this curriculum, since it is so adaptable, will be used by schools of pharmacy, schools of nursing as well as schools of medicine across the country and by clinical systems like Geisinger.”  And move rapidly closer to a goal of zero preventable deaths by adapting a work culture of patient safety. Dr. Shoemaker said, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting until our students run healthcare. We just lose too many patients per year to wait for that.”

Dr. Sheinman served in January as keynote speaker at the Patient Safety Movement Foundation’s annual World Patient Safety Science and Technology Summit in California. He and Dr. Shoemaker helped explain the curriculum which they will continue working to promote nationwide.


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