Wrong Site Surgery

Rhode Island Hospital recently had an incident of a surgeon operating on the wrong side of a patent’s head. That’s correct. Brain surgery, room full of people, medical experts, largest hospital in the state, one of the largest in New England. Wrong side of the head.

Oh, yes: Did I mention it was the third time in recent history? Yeah. Three times, wrong side of the head. But it’s not as bad as you think. It was, after all, three different patients.

I believe there are only two sides to any given head, so the law of averages would have you right half the time. Rhode Island Hospital, with its crack medical teams, is beating those percentages, so credit where credit is due. They’re right more than they’re wrong. Isn’t that good enough?

Of just slightly lesser note is the fact that they’ve worked on wrong arms, legs, and organs over the past decade. But give them a break, I don’t believe they’ve ever chosen the wrong patient altogether, or given someone a scalpel who wasn’t a doctor.

At least, I don’t think so.

I mention this to you not merely as an existential comedy, but also to suggest that the clients and prospects with whom you are dealing are shockingly human. I advocate that you see yourself as a peer of the buyer, and I’m telling you that this is not difficult. Almost all of the obstacle resides inside your head (I won’t venture a side, but I’m sure I’d be half right).

We are dealing with our human brethren (sorry, I don’t know the feminine form of that) who have the same emotions, doubts, politics, flaws, uncertainties, and conflicts as the rest of us. They sometimes make gravely wrong decisions about people, finances, technology, competition, markets, and so forth. Egregiously wrong.

Which is why so much of my lucrative consulting has been based on common sense. Why do you believe that? What is the evidence? What behavior are you seeking? Are you setting the example?

Have you asked the patient which side of the head has previously been discussed? Have you asked the nurse who was caring for the patient? Have you read the chart before picking up the drill? Did you brush up on “Procedures for head surgery 101” before stopping by the operating room?

Okay, good. That will be $100,000.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Wrong Site Surgery

  1. Alan–

    Twenty years ago I did some consulting for a client–a major midwest medical center–after they DID operate on the wrong patient!

    It was an outpatient procedure (myringotomy tube insertion) on a young boy. He had the same first name and the same birth date as the intended patient, so when the nurse called out his first name and checked the hospital bracelet, she didn’t pay attention to the different last name and didn’t check with the child or the parent that it was the right procedure.

    Luckily the kid was fine.


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