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Doctor hopes to cut medication errors and increase patient safety

Mistakes involving medication and prescription drugs can have serious effects on patients in Maryland hospitals. In order to help stop medication errors and medical malpractice, one doctor is hoping to create a nationwide space in hospitals where staff can fulfill duties without interruption.

Dr. Donald Berwick is the steward of the Medicare and Medicaid program and is a former pediatrician who trained at Harvard Medical School. He said that he saw many doctors and nurses making mistakes due to sleep deprivation and distractions during his training. He now strives to make American medicine safer by reducing those distractions.

Recently, Donald Berwick was impressed by a zone named the "MedZone," where hospital staff can fulfill duties including placing orders for medication without being interrupted or subjected to other distractions.

The area was installed in one hospital, complete with one computer terminal, after dangerous medication mistakes from distracted nurses were discovered. Now, the numbers of mistakes have decreased by one-third, which not only saves money, but can also save patients' lives.

Although safety is taken into serious consideration within other fields of the business world, one in seven Medicare patients suffer from the lack of safety precautions in hospitals. Currently, medical errors are so common that they cost about one-third of $1 trillion in taxpayer money.

Berwick said many mistakes could also be prevented by creating new systems to protect people. For example, health systems in Austin and Pittsburgh have established systems to ensure safety measures and protocols to help improve efficiency.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Pressing for better quality across healthcare," Noam N. Levey, Oct. 4, 2011

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