Q&A with Renowned Patient Safety Practitioner

Dr. Lucien Leape is on the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health. As one of America’s foremost proponents of patient safety (see our blog, “A Surgeon Outs the Deficiencies in Health Care,” ), he was interviewed earlier this month by MedPageToday.com as part of its ongoing series to learn what medical professionals consider priorities in safe health care.

Leape probably is most notable for his 1994 article, “Error in Medicine,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He was a member of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Quality of Care in America Committee, and is a founder of the National Patient Safety Foundation and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Error.

Here’s some of what he told MedPage Today.

Q: What’s the biggest barrier to practicing medicine today?

A: “Production pressure” – the requirement to see more patients in less time because of the misconception that the value of a physician is determined by the number of patients he/she sees.

Q: If you could change or eliminate something about the health-care system, what would it be?

A: The business model (for-profit and not-for-profit are all the same), especially paying fee for service. Health care should be a public good, like education, with all doctors salaried. (When they don’t have to worry about making money or paying the bills, doctors are happier, as are their patients.)

Q: What is the most important advice for medical students or new doctors?

A: Don’t let the paperwork, red tape, data collection and bureaucratic nonsense keep you from enjoying the reality of taking care of patients.

Q: What is the most memorable research published since you became a physician and why?

A: The Pill. It changed the psychology, sexuality and sociology of women (and therefore men as well) forever.

Q: What is your advice to other physicians on how to avoid burnout?

A: Change your attitude to one of respect for and genuine interest in helping those you work with every day – nurses, clerks, assistants, etc. Make their day better by the way you treat them. Bringing joy to their life will bring joy to yours.

Limit your work day to 12 hours.

Have dinner at home with your family every night.

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