Robert Pearl, MD
The American healthcare system is a contradiction. Both doctors and patients pride themselves on having the best healthcare in the world, even though hundreds of thousands of people die every year from medical errors, failures in prevention, and avoidable complications of chronic disease. These failures contribute to our nation’s poor ranking in most global healthcare performance studies. But what exactly accounts for the schism between our positive perceptions of healthcare and the sobering reality of our current system? Decades of psychological literature, when combined with the latest brain-scanning studies, reveal the neurobiological basis for this dichotomy. Most important, they reveal a path to improving the health of our country. This article demonstrates that America’s growing patient safety problem is not the failure of individual physicians. It is a contextual and systemic failure, one that will require major changes in how care delivery is structured, reimbursed, technologically supported and led.