It has been recently estimated that as many as 450,000 women between the ages of 68 and 71 did not receive invitations to routine breast cancer screenings due to ‘administrative incompetence’.[i] Worst still, as many as 270 women may have died because of these errors. The issue has been traced back to a computer algorithm error that has affected the health service’s system since 2009. For those women, and their families, who have been affected by this incredible oversight, there is little that can make up for such an egregious mistake, but the Health Secretary has expressed the need for an urgent review to ensure such an avoidable error could not happen again.
This is, of course, an extreme and tragic example of the kind of administrative oversight that can be all too easily made in a healthcare setting. When dealing with a high volume of patient data, in a busy environment, the potential for mistakes is unavoidable to a certain degree. This does not make it acceptable by any means – and it is our responsibility as healthcare professionals to protect our patients. This applies from the practice owner down to the reception staff – anyone who handles patient data should do everything they can to ensure a high level of service accuracy and care. Ultimately an error can undermine all the good clinical work we perform.
We talk a lot about holistic dentistry – whereby we consider all aspects of our patients’ health and wellbeing in regards to the treatments we provide them. We draw links from their medical histories to inform our treatment plans, discuss their lifestyle habits to help them avoid preventable dental issues in the future. But as important as the treatment is the monitoring and follow-up ensuring continuous care. If we want to truly practise holistic dentistry, we need to be able to look beyond our patients’ teeth, beyond the confines of the treatment room, to all aspects of the service we provide to ensure the best patient journey.
This makes it vital for all practice owners to commit time to the running of their practice, the small details and processes that contribute to good practice and then ideally delegate to a great manager!
With GDPR now in force, there is even more scrutiny on the way patient data is handled, and mistakes can now be financially costly. Similarly, new technologies and practice management software is increasing our dependence on digital solutions – the error that was made in the case of the breast screening oversight was caused by an unnoticed computer error, so it’s clear to see how profound an impact technology can have in the healthcare sector.
These days, dentistry is so much more than just keeping your patients’ teeth healthy. It is crucial that every aspect of their treatment is precise, safe and effective – even something as small as getting a call back or an appointment reminder. By keeping on top of all this mistakes can be avoided, and we can provide a truly holistic dentistry experience.
 National Health Executive, Breast Screening: 450,000 miss out due to ‘administrative incompetence’ – http://www.nationalhealthexecutive.com/Health-Care-News/breast-screening-error-450000-miss-out-due-to-administrative-incompetence.