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The gift of failure: learning to provide better cardiac care
  1. Alexander M Clark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alexander M Clark, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Level 3 Clinical Sciences Building, Edmonton, Canada T6R 2R6; Alex.Clark{at}

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To many, the 2-week ‘SNAPSHOT’ of patient care patterns across Australia and New Zealand1 will appear a picture of systems-wide failure. The results are likely to be of concern not only for the health professionals of these countries but also their general public, governments and media. Why, given the heavy weight of persuasive evidence supporting the best pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) patients, was suboptimal cardiac care so dominant in the 2 weeks studied? Across two wealthy countries with well-financed health systems, how can optimal cardiac care be provided to only three out of four patients—and be even worse for those patients who are more prone to heart disease, notably older adults?

That large numbers of citizens may suffer unnecessarily due to poor and unequal cardiac care is not ethically or economically acceptable. Yet, whether and how the results reported by the research come to improve patient care will be determined less by the results themselves but by how people and their organisations choose to respond.

Harnessing failure better

Far from being associated with fear and incompetence, modern organisations increasingly see failure to achieve intended outcomes not only as being important to capture with data but also as being integral to subsequent learning and improvement.2 This is important because in spite of efforts and intentions to specifically avoid it, failure occurs often, in many different forms, and for all …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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