How are healthcare providers trying to make surgery safer? 5 things to know

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Sentinel events still happen and a large number take place in the operating room. Here are five things to know about surgical errors and the ways healthcare providers are tackling the problem to make surgery safer, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

1. Though stopgap measures such as checklists are already in place, surgical errors persist. A foreign object is left inside a patient 39 times per week, the wrong procedure is performed on a patient 20 times per week, wrong-site surgery is performed 20 times per week and in 2013 there were 157,000 surgical-site infections, according to the report.

2. Numbers are telling. Healthcare providers are turning to data for answers. Programs such as the National Surgical Quality Improvement Project aim to collect and analyze data in an effort to identify safety gaps. Platforms such as this allow for national benchmarking, widespread peer-to-peer comparison that allows providers to see and correct potential safety failings.

3. Surgery may seem like a passive event for patients, who once on the operating table are anesthetized and in the surgeon's hands, but they can play a role safety measures. Healthcare providers are in fact focusing on patient preparation in an effort to circumvent potential issues in the OR. Pre-operative protocols, such as patient bathing with antiseptics, are being carefully monitored. Some elective procedures are even delayed in an effort to improve patient health prior to a procedure.

4. ORs are full of technology, the latest implants and instruments, but technology can also be used to prevent surgical errors. For example, radio-frequency identification tags can be used with sponges to ensure none are left inside the patient.  

5. To err is human, but the stakes are considerably higher in healthcare. One of the most important steps providers are taking in the effort to improve safety is education. Surgeons and surgical staff are being educated on issues such as the risk of OR fires and infection control protocols.  

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