Sexy Human Factors And The Clinical Error Taboo

The clinical error taboo
Historically cancer was taboo, then HIV was taboo, now clinical error might also be considered taboo. We don’t like talking about it. We don’t like admitting our human frailties. Sometimes we don’t like to accept or believe that things are going wrong. It’s bad for business and we may scare patients away from hospitals who are going to benefit from being there. Often a response when clinical error is brought out in the open is antagonistic – is someone blaming someone else of something. Perhaps this is an understandable human trait. So instead of bringing an issue up we may choose to sweep it under the carpet, not wanting to create animosity.

Human factors isn’t sexy (yet)
Smoking used to be considered cool and sexy – it was marketed this way. In response anti smoking campaigns have often focussed on the coolness of not smoking. Breast cancer campaigns have developed great traction – the 3rd day of the Sydney Test is Pink Day. Clinical error meanwhile is a bigger killer, however will we see a day when a campaign to fix it receives the same level of kudos. Will we ever have a clinical error day at the cricket?

We need to make human factors cool and we desperately need to break the clinical error taboo. We need to campaign for increased awareness and understanding amongst those in healthcare and beyond.

The greater the understanding the less the likelihood of antagonism, and the greater the acceptance of solutions. Front line staff will readily provide solutions to the issues they face knowing they are best placed to develop the safest environment for their patients. This is the bottom to top to bottom approach that we need to engender in healthcare.  That’s about as sexy as I can make it.

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