People in Providence County may view the potential of a person having the wrong body part operated on almost jokingly. After all, few may attribute the incompetence assumed to be involved in such an error to doctors and surgeons, who for the most part are viewed by the general public as being very learned individuals. Those who claim that wrong site surgeries are few and far between seem to be supported by evidence. Information shared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that such errors only occur in one of every 112,000 surgical cases. However, the AHRQ recognizes that data only reflects operating room procedures, and not surgical cases performed outside of the OR. Indeed, it is estimated that as many as half of such errors occur in these settings.
To help prevent the potential for a wrong site surgery, the Joint Commission (the chief accrediting body of hospitals and healthcare organizations in the U.S.) has developed a "Universal Protocol for Preventing Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure, and Wrong Person Surgery." This protocol (as shared by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) involves the following three components:
- A pre-procedure verification process
- The marking of operative site
- Conducting a "time out" prior to commencing with the surgery
Pre-procedure verification includes matching all equipment, supplies and documentation to the patient, as well as confirming that the resources available will help best ensure the potential of delivering an outcome consistent with the patient’s expectations. Operative site markings are required on procedures where there are multiple locations which may be operated on. Finally, the pre-operative “time out” allows a surgical team to assess its readiness before beginning the procedure.
Healthcare facilities not following this standard could face difficulties in retaining their accreditation, and could also open themselves up to liability claims.