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Using technology to combat culture of silence in hospitals

Each year, many New York patients are seriously injured due to medical negligence by doctors and other medical staff. In most cases, these injuries would have easily been prevented if other staff who noticed a doctor's consistent errors reported it or confronted the doctor directly. Unfortunately, there is a documented culture of silence that often exists in hospital settings, leading many to refrain from reporting and increasing the risk to patients as a result.

In a 2005 study, VitalSmarts and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses surveyed 1,700 doctors, nurses and other clinical care staff. While more than half reported having observed another doctor or staff committing medical errors, only 10 percent actually reported those errors or confronted the doctor directly. This is alarming, as nearly 200,000 people are seriously injured across the country each year due to medical errors that could be prevented.

Communication technologies do exist that can be used to help monitor the activities of medical staff. These autonomous systems work in a similar fashion to black boxes used in airplanes. As has been demonstrated within the airline industry, the use of such technology actually helps encourage people to report the errors of others as well as to confront people directly. Implementing the technology in hospital settings thus has the potential to save lives while helping hospitals to address medical incompetence.

Medical personnel have a duty to provide care that is best designed to help their patients. When they instead do such things as ignoring standard procedures or taking short cuts, they run the risk of injuring the patients for whom they are providing care. Patients who are seriously injured as a result of such negligence may wish to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to determine if any recourse is available to compensate them for the damages they have sustained.

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