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Are medical errors the third leading cause of death or disability and what can we do to protect ourselves?

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TEDx Stanley ParkDr Z. Essak, MD - Vancouver BC - March 4, 2018

The TEDx Stanley Park event at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver on Saturday March 3, 2018 was incredible with 13 (a bakers dozen) memorable and inspiring speakers and 4 brief, fun energerizer programs to keep the audience engaged. Two of the presentations addressed medical errors.

With cancer as the leading cause of death and heart disease as the second leading cause, medical errors are referred to by some as the third leading cause of death and disability.

Whether errors are third or not, it makes sense that anything that helps to reduce or prevent medical errors is worth pursuing. Every error that can be prevented has direct benefit to individuals and their families.

Theresa Sabo, in a TEDx Stanley Park presentation, "Medical Errors Are Killing Us" raises awareness about the problem, shares her own personal experience and says, "Reporting errors isn't about shame or blame, it's about changing the game".

Other sectors, like aviation, through required reporting of errors, have benefited in developing quality improvements throughout the sector. Why not the same in healthcare?

I would add, we should also remember the Hippocratic oath includes do no harm. Healthcare workers are human and a life-time of no mistakes may be unrealistic, but as professionals who aspire to provide care to others and do no harm; helping each other avoid mistakes, learning from mistakes, making remedies and necessary changes are values they embrace personally.

Do our practices in offices, clinics and healthcare settings reflect and support these values or impede them? Are we making sufficient efforts to mitigate errors, learn from them and ensure changes that can help are implemented? Or are we treating errors as secrets?

Another speaker, Claire Snyman, in the TEDx Stanley Park presentation - "Your Health Is In Your Hands", also shared her personal story and invited us to consider what can we do personally for our own healthcare and that of our families and loved ones?

A good place to start is with each of our visits to the doctor or healthcare provider.

Do we feel we cannot really ask them questions, thinking they know best and they are busy? Do we just need to follow their advice and recommendations, trusting and hoping for the best?

Or do we need to take control of our own healthcare and how do we do that?

Claire Snyman suggests to advocate for yourself and think of it as a "TEAM" effort.

1. Track your visits, what was said and recommended.

2. Educate yourself. Try to understand and learn more about what is happening.

Connect, communicate and collaborate with loved ones, your medical team and support groups.

3. Ask questions.

We may find healthcare providers who invite us to understand what they are thinking and the actions they are recommending, and others who may do so readily when prompted with questions we ask to help us understand. We may remember a GP or family doctor, or a specialist, or a nurse, or a resident or some other provider who is like this.

Regardless, it is important to ask questions.

4. Manage your treatments and appointments.

Get another opinion when something doesn't feel right.

With a "TEAM" effort we can each take control of our healthcare and make it less likely that mistakes will occur and any that do are dealt with quickly.

These two TEDx Stanley Park speakers highlight the impact of medical errors and what we need to do in healthcare settings and also personally to improve healthcare for everyone and ourselves, families and loved ones.



The TEDx Stanley Park Talks were live streamed on March 3, 2018 but will not be available online until April 2018.

The full bakers dozen of 13 talks are worth a look.

Theresa Sabo, self introduction

Claire Snyman, self introduction



Cease fire banner, you don't speak for the people.