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Preventing Potential Dangers in Your Practice Using External Errors

Once burned, twice shy. This statement clearly exhibits the value of personal experience. While personal experience has its benefits, external situations can also provide insight.

More than likely you have seen headlines and read many of the stories about procedures at the dentist gone wrong, particularly tragic errors like the teen who died after a wisdom tooth procedure. You might think something like this could never happen to your practice. However, you should consider the insight and education that can be achieved from reviewing external situations.

Many of our blogs are written from actual situations, from practices not unlike yours.  They simply had a fortunate or unfortunate personal experience and we are here to help mitigate the scenario and to help others avoid the same situation.  This is the essence of risk management and patient safety.

But, just reading about a topic is only one part of the equation.  To fully benefit from an external situation, it requires three steps:

  1. Commitment from leadership
  2. Framework for learning
  3. Desire to take action

A recent article in the March/April 2017 edition of Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare expresses the different type of biases we all are subject to which make it difficult for us to learn from other’s experiences.  These biases are related to how we evaluate a situation and include biases related to believing it was “pure luck”, or behavior and/or personality.

The article provides a breakdown of the three step process for learning from external situations which was first published by Conway, 2008:

  1. Leadership commitment
    • Recognizing that external errors provide a learning experience and should be reviewed regularly
    • Recognizing  that the organization is subject to similar errors
    • Recognizing that an external error presents an opportunity to determine what steps have been taken or will take to prevent a personal experience
  2. Framework for learning
    • Identifying reliable learning resources
    • Dedicating an individual to research and understand how/why  situations occur
    • Reviewing information and assessing your vulnerability to such an experience
  3. Take action
    • Creating a plan to address vulnerabilities
    • Using external experiences to motivate improvements
    • Monitoring and adjusting your plans as necessary

So, when you are reading an article about a particular situation, take the time to consider whether the scenario can happen at your practice, recognize your personal biases,  and plan on how you might be prepared, if or when it does happen to you.

For more information about external situations and how to handle them, contact PSIC today.

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