A new study finds the number of wrong surgeries has declined substantially at Veterans Affairs hospitals.
At the same time, the number of close calls being reported has increased.
Out of more than half a million procedures over a three and a half year period, there were 101 medical errors and 136 close calls. The mistakes included 30 procedures or surgeries on the wrong patient and 48 on the wrong body part or wrong side of the body.
One of the study's authors says the close call reports suggest that doctors, nurses and their co-workers are becoming more willing to speak up when something goes wrong or looks like it's about to.
Veterans' hospitals have adopted checklists like the kind pilots go through in the cockpit. A member of the operating team reads off items like the patient's name, the type of procedure they're about to undergo, anesthesia and the tools needed. Body parts that are to be operated on are marked.
Team members are supposed to note anything that seems amiss. Patients, too, are sometimes involved.