“Monday Mornings”, a television show based on a novel written by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD premiered on February 4th. The show’s storyline centers around a fictional Portland Oregon hospital’s Monday morning “morbidity and mortality” conferences during which doctors gather to discuss serious medical errors and how they occurred. According to Barron H. Lerner, MD, the “M&M” conferences began in the early 20th century in order to provide a forum “for physicians to review cases that had either surprising outcomes or had somehow gone wrong. Although the format varied among institutions and departments, surgery M&Ms were especially known for their confrontations, as more experienced surgeons often browbeat younger doctors into admitting their errors and promising to never make them again.” Dr. Lerner notes that the confrontational brow-beating techniques employed during the conferences were usually ineffectual. In the 1970’s another doctor offered another approach that focused more on a systems approach to medical errors similar to what the airline industry was using. While it’s too early to tell if the show will be popular, we already know that medical errors continue to happen at an alarming rate and the “M&M” conferences haven’t stemmed that tide. Good communication between all healthcare professionals as well as a checklist system and greater transparency would perhaps be more effective than confrontational, closed-door dialogue between doctors who seek to pass or deflect the blame.
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