Kicking off our new blog; plus some thoughts on patient safety

April 4, 2011 Rod Hochman, MD


Welcome to Swedish’s new blog. Thank you for taking a moment to check it out. We’re excited to have a forum where our physicians and clinical staff can interact with the community and share their expertise and perspectives on health issues.

On this blog, you’ll get a chance to meet different members of the team at Swedish, from our health educators and nurses to our primary-care physicians and specialists. They’ll share tips on how to keep you and your family safe and healthy, and they’ll tell you about promising new breakthroughs in medicine, including innovative treatment options and diagnostic tools being used here at Swedish.

We also plan to use this blog to report on Swedish’s work in the community. As a nonprofit, we’re passionate about strengthening the health-care safety net and improving the health of our region. We’re looking forward to using this blog as a way to highlight our community health initiatives and tell you about some of the nonprofit agencies we’re partnering with to reach underserved populations.

But we don’t want this blog to be just a one way conversation. We encourage questions, comments and ideas for blog topics. The more interactive, the better. With your input, we hope to make this blog a valuable resource that will inspire and motivate people to take charge of their health and do their part to create a healthier community.

With this being the first installment of our blog, I thought it appropriate to include a few thoughts on patient safety in this initial post. “First, do no harm” is the No. 1 rule of medicine. Likewise, preventing medical errors that may cause harm to our patients is job No. 1 at Swedish. That’s why every shift on every campus at Swedish begins with a “patient-safety huddle,” in which doctors and nurses debrief to make sure all safety protocols are in place before the day’s work begins.

Patient safety and clinical quality are core values at Swedish, and I was incredibly proud of our team last December when Swedish received the ultimate stamp of approval for this work. Our Cherry Hill and First Hill campuses were named 2010 Leapfrog Top Hospitals, which is based on quality and safety metrics and is the most respected honor in health care.  You can read more about the award here. (Although our Ballard campus wasn’t eligible for consideration because it doesn’t have an intensive care unit, it ranked in the top decile nationally in the overall Leapfrog composite score, which is an equally noteworthy accomplishment.) 

The types of medical errors that can occur in a hospital can be very serious, such as spreading contagious illness from one patient to another, giving a patient the wrong medication or dosage, misdiagnosing a patient or operating on the wrong limb. But they are all things that can be prevented by following proper safety protocols.

The health-care industry has come a long way in the last 10 years in terms of improving its safety record. And health care has learned a lot from the airline industry. For instance, in the same way cockpit crews go over a safety checklist before take-off, surgical teams in the OR now take a “safety pause” and go over an OR checklist before starting a procedure. There are even more parallels between health care and the airline industry, which you can read more about in this recent post from the Wall Street Journal’s health blog.

Patient safety isn’t just the responsibility of doctors and nurses. Patients also play a role. Here are 10 things you can do to assure you receive the safest possible health care. As a patient, it’s important to speak up if something about your health care seems amiss. But many patients say they don’t feel comfortable questioning their doctor. Do you feel this way? Here is a scenario to consider:

Health-care providers are required to wash their hands or use alcohol gel before examining a patient (because the simple act of hand washing can prevent the spread of infection from patient to patient.) If you notice that your provider has not washed his or her hands or used gel, how comfortable are you with asking him or her about it? Do you think it’s your responsibility to do so? Or do you think patients shouldn’t have to ask?

I’d be interested in getting some feedback on this topic of “speaking up” and hearing what you think about it. Thank you again for taking the time to read this new blog. I hope you’ll engage with us regularly, and I invite you to help us create valuable content for the community.


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