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The Neurologist and Patient Safety

Glick, Thomas H. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.nrl.0000160414.75332.71
Original Article

Background: The objective of this article is to acquaint neurologists with the current status of evidence and opinion on patient safety in neurology. Research data on errors and preventable adverse events (harm from medical management) in neurology are sparse, with little light being cast thus far on the vulnerabilities of individual neurologists and neurologic office practices. However, areas of particular concern and lines of appropriate action are now becoming apparent.

Review Summary: This review draws on the few studies of neurologic malpractice claims, inpatient incident reports and chart reviews, and articles and abstracts in the journal literature. These are placed in the context of the general epidemiology of medical errors, adverse events, and approaches to remediation.

Conclusion: Accurate and timely diagnosis in all its aspects represents the single largest category of error. Most neurologists have their first interaction with a patient and family at the time of a critical illness, underlining the importance of improved communication, not only with them but with other caregivers. Systems of information transfer, such as those enabling timely imaging reports, are critical. Better consultative follow-up may be pivotal. Education in patient safety competencies and closer supervision of trainees can be expected to improve protection. Venues, such as emergency departments, in which relevant knowledge and skills may be insufficient to maximize patient safety, deserve particular attention.

From the Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, The Division of Neurology, The Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reprints: Thomas H. Glick, MD, 1493 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139. E-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.