The Blame Game – No Winners

Blaming gets you what you think you want right now, not what you really need or even want long-term.

When something bad happens – terrorists blow up the Twin Towers; Enron, WorldCom and the real estate market all collapse; a loved one dies or is injured during medical treatment – it is comforting to identify a villain and punish him or them. It gives us satisfaction probably because we think that we are getting justice, or maybe just getting even. However, blaming solves nothing. Everyone loses when playing the Blame Game.

In the current economic turndown (crisis if you need to be dramatic), people point fingers at the greedy Wall Street players; those who took mortgages they could not afford; and the government for lack of oversight/regulation. Blaming may feel right but it does not restore fiscal sanity, address the imbalances, or reconstitute your pension. We need to find the root causes – the what and why, not the who – and fix them.

Now move your focus from real estate to healthcare. Same thing: when we play the blame game, we all lose. Actually we lose more when the game involves our health.

The blame game in healthcare is the basis of the medical malpractice system (Med-mal) and in turn med-mal prevents error-reduction and suppresses quality improvement.

Playing the blame game in healthcare reduces the pool of providers so we have fewer doctors and nurses. Who wants to work in a field where you are a guilty perpetrator, even when you are proven innocent?

Yes, I am taking away your sticks and stones. If you want to fix problems, you need to deal with the system, not cast stones. This may be emotionally less satisfying short-term but is the only way you can get what you need and want long term.

For the current fiscal crisis, the system needs to reconnect decision-maker with consequences of the decision. Those who take big risks should both revel in the big gains and suffer the big losses. Those who did not choose to take the risks should share in neither. The system should be set up so that happens.

Same thing in healthcare. Those who make decisions for your health – that means you, not the doctor – must accept responsibility. The system, both health care delivery and medical malpractice when things go wrong, should be structured to help us stay well; to restore us when we are sick; and to learn so it can do better in the future. The healthcare system is currently structured does only the one in the middle (and not terribly well).

The blame game has no winners.
Fix the system, not the blame.

System MD

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