Brochure encourages doctors and nurses to admit treatment errors to patients
In Germany, around 18,000 patients die due to treatment errors in the hospital. However, experts estimate the number of unreported cases to be much higher, since errors in the healthcare system are often swept under the carpet. Doctors and nurses fear the consequences. A new AOK brochure is intended to encourage openly admitting treatment errors. This is the only way to learn from mistakes and increase patient safety, the brochure says.
Treatment errors are often covered up. Errors occur in all areas and usually remain without serious consequences. However, if a doctor overdoses a strong medication or makes a wrong diagnosis, it can have fatal consequences for the patient. Of around 18 million patients admitted to German hospitals each year, around 18,000 die from treatment errors. This was the result of a scientific investigation. The number is a so-called low estimate. Experts assume that the number of unreported cases is much higher. Because the clinic staff is often silent about their mistakes. This is also confirmed by an investigation by the Bremen University of Applied Sciences, which conducted a survey of nurses in clinics. According to this, 85 percent stated that significantly less than half of all errors were reported in their facility. Who would like to admit that he put a patient at risk or is even responsible for their death? In addition, many hospital managers may fear damage to their hospital's good reputation and therefore do not want to be informed about errors that would force them to act. There is also often a consensus among doctors and nurses not to pillorize anyone. After all, everyone is overworked due to the nursing emergency, overtime and shift work. Added to this is the fear of the consequences if a treatment error becomes known.
Brochure advises openness when it comes to treatment errors In order to increase patient safety, the AOK has published a new brochure entitled "Every error is an opportunity", in which former nurses, who are now in higher positions, talk about their mistakes This is intended to encourage doctors and nurses to admit medical errors, which can be avoided in the future, such as the disinfectant containers that have now been installed throughout hospitals, which has significantly reduced the number of hospital infections be recognized.
A cover-up treatment error "burdens the personality and forfeits the unique opportunity to protect other patients from repeating the error," wrote the health insurance company in its brochure. "Errors cannot be avoided 100 percent or even prohibited, you can only learn from them."
“It is brave to speak openly about mistakes, because that's the only way to learn from them. And it is also an elementary contribution to patient safety, ”explains Jürgen Graalmann, Chairman of the AOK Federal Association. "Whoever admits mistakes shows responsibility and deserves respect." It is not a question of asking "Who was to blame" but rather "What was to blame", says a statement from the health insurance company. "Above all, dealing openly with mistakes means a cultural change," reports Kai Kolpatzik, head of the prevention department at the AOK federal association. This change of perspective is the real challenge.
Protecting patients from treatment errors In an interview with the newspaper “Die Welt”, Hardy Müller, honorary managing director of the patient safety campaign alliance in Hamburg, reports on his experiences. About the AOK brochure, which was created in cooperation with the association, Müller says: "It is an admission that mistakes always happen and that you should talk about them and not be pilloried." It is not about a guilty party to identify the cause of the error in the future in order to protect the patient. Intensive error analysis could avoid most treatment errors. Instead of investing a lot of time and money in innovations, Müller advocates using existing treatment methods more safely.
The legislator took action in February 2013 and created the conditions for a more open error culture with the introduction of the Patient Rights Act. According to this, the error reporting systems in hospitals may not be used for police or public prosecutorial investigations. However, grossly negligent or criminal acts are an exception. In this way, a drunk doctor who makes a treatment error remains punishable. Clinical staff are generally relieved and encouraged to be more open when dealing with errors. "The law relieves the employees because it has been made clear that an error message should not actually be used against you," explains Müller. And yet: "Open handling of errors has yet to be practiced." In many clinics there is still a great deal of silence about treatment errors.
Müller also sees the state as obliged to do more. There is only one institute for patient safety in Germany, whose staff scientifically analyze treatment errors and how to avoid them. "To err is human, but not investing in patient safety is fatal," warns Müller. (Ag)