A wonderful, little-known, but very valuable resource for improving health care is MITSS – Medically Induced Trauma Support Services. (They pronounce it “mitts” and it has nothing to do with MIT.) I’ve written about them several times on e-patients.net and on my own “New Life” blog; a good introductory post is here. They support everyone involved in medical errors – the professionals as well as the patient/victims.
They invited me to give the opening remarks at their annual fundraiser last month. (More about them below.) It was a privilege. Here’s my talk. The slides aren’t in the video, but if you’ve seen the other talks on this site, you’ve seen most of the slides.
Why MITSS is important to me
I think it’s a tragedy when someone who’s worked for years to learn an important profession makes a mistake and finds their life ruined by the harm they just caused. I’m not saying screw-ups are fine with me (are you kidding??); I’m saying perfection is unrealistic. In any field. And, for the most part, healthcare doesn’t yet have the kind of error-prevention systems that other industries have. So the people pretty much work without a net.
Yes, errors happen, and people get hurt. Many are killed every year by medical errors; it’s unnecessarily dangerous to be in a hospital. Lots of people are working on that, in the Patient Safety movement, Lean process improvement, etc. We must improve.
I just hate it when someone who’s good hearted commits a human lapse, and every single person involved suffers from it and we never learn lessons from it. I hate it even more when they’re not allowed to get help, recover, and get back to life with renewed caution. It can cause emotional devastation, which does nothing to create a better future. And a better future is the only goal I think is worth working for.
As in any other industry – aviation, cars, anything – we need to learn from mistakes. That requires open discussion of what went wrong, and that requires helping the people involved talk about what may be a devastating memory.
It’s important for us all (providers, patients, insurers, policy people) to get real about the fact that practicing medicine is audacious, and we all ought to participate – work together – in improving it.