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Proposed Healthcare Safety Entity Would Mirror Success of NTSB

Patient safety is a critical issue for the medical community and patients themselves. Many patient safety advocates believe more should be done to protect patients from preventable medical errors. To that end, some advocates have promoted the idea of creating an entity for the medical community that would be similar to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates transportation accidents and initiates preventative actions in the aviation industry.

Since the NTSB is extremely successful in watching over the aviation industry and proposing fixes for systematic problems, a similarly structured entity in the medical community could have as strong an impact for patient safety.

This new entity would seek to mimic the NTSB in the ways it has been most successful, such as directly linking incident reports with changes designed to prevent those incidents. In the past, such NTSB links have led directly to safety-enhancing improvements in airline policies and federal regulations.

Certain NTSB approaches may translate particularly well to the health care field. For example, one rule in aviation helps reduce cockpit distractions while pilots are conducting critical procedures. Another aims to improve communication among personnel. In the health care context, keeping medical staff focused is certainly crucially important; and creating an atmosphere where staff communicates well could certainly improve patient care and reduce instances of medical malpractice.

The suggested health care entity would not just decrease harm to patients, but would also decrease costs associated with patient care, through the preventative actions it would encourage.

Though the idea for this entity is only in its infancy, it poses intriguing possibilities for improving patient safety. It is too early to say whether this proposed entity will come to be, but for patients anything that will help increase safety is welcome.

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