In what should have been a rallying opportunity for an industry designed to save lives, almost 20 years have since passed and studies now show that the number of annual casualties are likely two to four times higher than previously estimated.

Millennial solutions

William Pollard, a 19th century clergyman and innovator once famously said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

While much of the health care sector spent the better part of the 16 years since the IOM report attempting to resolve this safety epidemic through the same top-down approach they’ve always used, recent developments in app-based technology are finally enabling patients and caregivers to identify problems and propose solutions.

The Batz Foundation is just one example of an agency looking to address patient safety concerns by providing a free app to equip patients with resources, checklists and questions inside of a platform that enables them to log, track and share vital statistics and document medication use.

“Families just want to be a part of the team. They have valuable information on the patient and they can be the eyes and ears for the medical staff when they can’t be in the room.”

“Families just want to be a part of the team,” says Laura Townsend, CEO of the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation. “They have valuable information on the patient and they can be the eyes and ears for the medical staff when they can’t be in the room. As a foundation, our job is to teach them how to get involved.”

In a similar effort, Visible Health, a company that started out of Harvard, has developed a series of apps called DrawMD to help medical providers communicate surgical procedures to patients through what amounts to an interactive yet highly accurate digital coloring book.

On the other end of the spectrum, companies like lean health care startup KaiNexus are utilizing an easy-to-use productivity app for everyone from doctors, nurses and administrative staff to those in environmental services to continuously identify, suggest and implement quality and safety changes from the ground up.

A concerted effort

According to Dr. Greg Jacobson, KaiNexus’ Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, “People think that health care providers have a lot of control over how the system runs but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Until the advent of cloud and app-based systems, care providers had few opportunities to inform administrators of problems and even fewer opportunities to share ideas on how to fix the problem.”

The elimination of preventable medical errors is going to take a concerted effort across the entire health care sector. While traditional top-down safety solutions undoubtedly have a role to play, the advent of patient and provider empowering technologies like those above, are going a long way toward uniting everyone behind a common cause.