Cultivating safety: Save lives, save money

Professional errors are unavoidable, particularly in high-stakes, high-pressure environments such as hospitals. When caretakers are emotionally affected by their own mistakes, the results can be devastating on a personal level. But these ”second victims” also lead to increased costs in the healthcare sector.

Hospitals are stressful places, and caretakers are commonly expected to make difficult calls, often based on little but their hard-won experience and threadbare information, in critical moments. Should something go wrong, the consequences of their decisions in these moments can weigh on them for years – causing self-blame, stress disorders, depression, sometimes even suicide. They become victims themselves.

As a result, affected caretakers often require care of their own, and may be forced to take extended time off. Readers of this blog may be familiar with our views on the issue of second victims. We have a moral responsibility to care for those who care for others, and easing the plight of second victims is a worthy cause in and of itself.

Not just the right thing do
However, there is another aspect to consider: economics. Medical errors cost healthcare services billions of dollars in the US alone each year. By failing to address the issue of second victims through more rigorous error minimization procedures, the healthcare system is effectively leaving money on the ground.

What’s more, the same solutions that minimize second victims will also reduce the number of first victims and improve general medical precision, saving even more money in the medium and long term. A single set of measures can make:

  • patients healthier and safer
  • caretakers more confident and effective
  • hospitals less costly and stressful

That is why combatting first and second victimization is not simply the right thing to do: it is the rational and cost-efficient thing as well. Concerted efforts to reduce medical errors, and thereby both first- and second victims, is a case of that rarest of choices in healthcare management: a win-win situation.

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