Saturday, November 08, 2014

Words from the Southern Hemisphere

As a result of some recent presentations I made in Johannesburg, I was invited to submit a commentary piece to the widely read Mail and Guardian in South Africa.  Please take a look (and please ignore the typos).  The lede:

With the progress in the delivery of healthcare over the past several decades, one wonders where the next advances will arise. Will it be a new series of drugs developed by scientists and pharmaceutical companies? Will it be new generations of medical devices? Will it be a better understanding of the genetic determinants of disease? 

Certainly all of the above are likely to occur, but each comes with a high cost: years of research and employment of hi-tech approaches will necessarily require that corporations invest in, and protect, their intellectual property rights.  

But there is a hidden gem of intervention in the healthcare system that requires little or no investment, and little or no technological advancement, but has the potential to save more lives than most of the drugs and medical devices that will come to the market over the coming decade. That this intervention remains largely untapped results in the premature death of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

What can this “miracle drug” be? Well, it is no miracle. Rather, it’s reorganising the way in which hospitals provide quality care . . .

Many people are harmed in hospitals or die from preventable medical errors. I do not refer to the occasional explicit error made by a surgeon during a complicated operation. I refer instead to the insidious presence of infections, missed test results and other similar events that occur in hospitals.  These do not happen out of negligence: rather they result from the manner in which work is organised in hospitals.

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