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Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Mar;274(3):1317-1326. doi: 10.1007/s00405-016-4291-z. Epub 2016 Sep 13.

Patient safety in otolaryngology: a descriptive review.

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Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TH, England, UK.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TH, England, UK.


Human evaluation and judgement may include errors that can have disastrous results. Within medicine and healthcare there has been slow progress towards major changes in safety. Healthcare lags behind other specialised industries, such as aviation and nuclear power, where there have been significant improvements in overall safety, especially in reducing risk of errors. Following several high profile cases in the USA during the 1990s, a report titled "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System" was published. The report extrapolated that in the USA approximately 50,000 to 100,000 patients may die each year as a result of medical errors. Traditionally otolaryngology has always been regarded as a "safe specialty". A study in the USA in 2004 inferred that there may be 2600 cases of major morbidity and 165 deaths within the specialty. MEDLINE via PubMed interface was searched for English language articles published between 2000 and 2012. Each combined two or three of the keywords noted earlier. Limitations are related to several generic topics within patient safety in otolaryngology. Other areas covered have been current relevant topics due to recent interest or new advances in technology. There has been a heightened awareness within the healthcare community of patient safety; it has become a major priority. Focus has shifted from apportioning blame to prevention of the errors and implementation of patient safety mechanisms in healthcare delivery. Type of Errors can be divided into errors due to action and errors due to knowledge or planning. In healthcare there are several factors that may influence adverse events and patient safety. Although technology may improve patient safety, it also introduces new sources of error. The ability to work with people allows for the increase in safety netting. Team working has been shown to have a beneficial effect on patient safety. Any field of work involving human decision-making will always have a risk of error. Within Otolaryngology, although patient safety has evolved along similar themes as other surgical specialties; there are several specific high-risk areas. Medical error is a common problem and its human cost is of immense importance. Steps to reduce such errors require the identification of high-risk practice within a complex healthcare system. The commitment to patient safety and quality improvement in medicine depend on personal responsibility and professional accountability.


Allied healthcare professionals; Diagnostic error; Disinfection of equipment; Laser safety; Medical error; Medication error; Otolaryngology; Patient safety; Preventable adverse event; Provision of emergency service; Wrong-site surgery

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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