Patient safety and public perception: transparency, transparency, transparency…

  • Posted on 21.04.2010

Patient safety and public perception: transparency, transparency, transparency…


John Wilkinson

Former Chief Executive of Eucomed

2007-07-19 Mother and daughter

Patient safety and public perception: transparency, transparency, transparency…
In scanning the disparate output of the EU machine I came across a thought provoking survey of EU citizens on the subject of patient safety. Perception surveys are scientifically questionable as  they deal in the currency of (often poorly informed) individual’s views. Politically and from a policy perspective they are more important as they often point to swings in public opinion on matters that will require action from legislators in the future. Patient safety is one such area. Lack of information, the veil of clinical secrecy and a ‘doctor knows best’ perception are being replaced by transparency, data and a questioning health consumer.

The survey comes up with some interesting points. The first thing that jumped out to me was the fact that 39% of respondents thought that medical technology could be the source of medical errors in their country. On the face of it this looks bad but actually this was bottom of the list of risks questioned. Top was hospital infections, followed by incorrect, missed or delayed diagnosis, then medication errors and surgical errors. It is worth commenting at this stage that all of the above have, are and will be the subject of technology development programmes designed to minimise patient safety risk. Particularly vibrant, at the moment, is the enormous investment being piled into medical technologies that address healthcare acquired infections.

When asked about what constituted high-quality healthcare the report states:

“When thinking of high quality healthcare, the most important criterion is well-trained medical staff, followed by treatment that works. Thereafter, no waiting lists, modern medical equipment and respect of a patient’s dignity receive roughly equal response.”

This statement is highly relevant to our industry given the technology intensity of modern healthcare. Technology is already ubiquitous in the chain of events surrounding care or patients for almost every diagnosis and the pace of technological innovation is speeding up. Patients clearly want the latest and best treatments that are available. Training of clinicians in this modern technology is an absolutely critical issue because I know of no health system in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) that budgets to train its staff in the use of new technologies. The burden for this falls almost entirely on industry. This is one of the reasons why Eucomed is so heavily championing its Code of Business Practice. Industry’s interactions with clinicians are crucial to the safe introduction of the modern technologies that patients rightly demand. The means by which industry interacts with healthcare professionals must by transparent and entirely free of suspicion.

Industry’s role in training clinical staff is central to safety and better outcomes for patients. It is a key component of high-quality healthcare and something that the industry is rightly proud of. It goes without saying that patient safety is the preeminent driver of research and development in this sector but the link to the user is probably more important in delivering safe and effective outcomes for patients.

– John Wilkinson, Chief Executive Eucomed

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