A fascinating new report on the role of parents in pediatric patient safety efforts is published in the July 30 issue of Journal of Hospital Medicine (paid registration required). A summary of the article is available through the University of Michigan.
Beth A. Tarini, MD, MS, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School, and her co-authors Paula Lozano, MD, MPH, and Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute, looked into parents’ perceptions of medical errors, patient safety, and communication. They found that nearly two-thirds of parents felt that they had to closely oversee their children’s hospital care to prevent a medical error from happening.
Interestingly, parents who reported a higher level of confidence in communicating with the medical team were less likely to be worried by the potential for medical errors.
Dr. Tarini draws an important conclusion: “We need to address parents’ concerns about errors and find ways to make them feel comfortable talking to us about their child’s care. Parents are an underutilized resource in our efforts to prevent medical errors.”
I can’t echo Dr. Tarini’s sentiment enough. While some parents are trained medical professionals, most are not. But parents- because of their close relationships with their children- are often able to sense important but subtle changes in their children’s conditions. Parents are more than visitors. They have the potential to meaningfully contribute to their children’s medical care. Time has come to harness that potential.