As Oprah Winfrey goes, so goes America. Which is why patient-safety advocates were thrilled to see the influential media celebrity feature medical errors on a recent Oprah show.
Beyond Dr. Phil: Oprahs talking patient safety now
On her March 10 show, Oprah hosted Dennis Quaid, the actor whose newborn twins were given serious overdoses of the blood thinner heparin last year at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The error spurred a flurry of activity within the healthcare quality movement. Since then, Quaid has become a highly visible advocate for increased patient safety.
And its a welcomed visibility, according to other patient-safety supporters. Helen Haskell, who started the group Mothers Against Medical Error in 2000 after her son died from a medication error and a subsequent hospital system breakdown, says celebrity involvement in the patient-safety movement has made a huge difference. After a celebrity error, it becomes news when someone else suffers the same error, she says. People begin to understand that these errors are common and that they can happen to anybody.
Ilene Corina, president of PULSE of New York, has been instrumental in the grass-roots safety movement in New York. While she was glad to see safety featured prominently on a national show, Corina says her initial reaction was frustration. The country needs more than 30 minutes of an hourlong show to be taught about safety, she says.
Still, such prominence is helpful, Corina adds. It means that what we have been saying is now confirmed that we must be vigilant and involved in our care, Corina says.
Quaid also is planned to give a keynote address on safety and technology at the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Chicago next month.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.