September 15, 2012

Patient-Provider Collaboration for Patient Safety

The publication by The Institute of Medicine of “To Err Is Human” may have launched the modern era of patient safety, but patients could reasonably be said to have attended to these issues long before the IOM. Through the courts, lay organizations and most recently on line, patients have taken an active role in patient safety. Unfortunately patient-initiated projects to improve the quality and safety of care have often happened with no engagement or recognition by mainstream professionals. Those academic and other professionals engaged in the patient safety movement frequently see safety as a system issue, where the system includes physicians, other providers, and institutions. It is something done “to” or “for” patients, not by them. This may be because of the history of adversarial patient-provider interactions over medical errors. Fortunately, new technologies and cultural shifts have set the stage for increased patient-provider collaboration on patient safety.

A panel at Medicine 2.0 Boston examined the present state of patient-provider cooperation on medical safety and explore future trends. Susannah Fox from the Pew Internet & American Life Project provided data and insights about how Americans are presently using the internet and social media to assess healthcare quality and guide their decisions about medical care. Dan Hoch, a pioneer in online patient communities, explored potential barriers to patient-provider collaboration. Lisa Gualtieri, of Tufts Medical School, reviewed possible strategies for enhancing the ways that patients and providers communicate and the tools that could be used for collaboration on patient safety. Heather Wellington, of Patients as Partners, spoke movingly of her identical twin sister’s struggle to obtain access to her medical records. Joe Graedon, author of The People’s Pharmacy, described his experience with adverse drug reporting and the challenges of working with established regulatory structures to promote safety.