The Patient Safety Movement, an organization comprising leaders from the patient, provider, and medical technology communities, has an ambitious goal of zero preventable deaths by the year 2020.

To this end, the group has issued a list of patient safety solutions, which were developed in collaboration with clinician stakeholders and the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.

The latest results of the Leapfrog Group’s annual survey on patient safety – coupled with the release of the Emergency Care Research Institute’s top 10 patient safety concerns – make even more relevant the PSM’s directions. Although each group has a slightly different agenda, they both agree that the success of their programs can be enhanced if all stakeholders, including employers, are involved.

Employer action on the patient safety issue could include crafting health benefit plans that reward safety and penalize non-compliance, urging hospital boards to make safety a priority (such as encouraging them to participate in data gathering and implementing safety measures), linking philanthropy to performance and distributing patient safety literature.

In late April, Leapfrog Group released the latest findings from its annual survey on patient safety on more than half of the nation’s hospitals. A number of nationally recognized hospitals continue to score poorly, belying their reputation as centers of excellence, with one in 25 patients getting an infection during a hospital visit.

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At the same time, nearly one-third of all hospitals have seen a 10% or higher improvement in performance since 2012. The majority of those “wins” are  the result of hospitals improving their processes and safe practices, such as hand hygiene, improved staffing levels and training for nurses, and administering the correct antibiotics prior to surgery.

“The data tell us that more hospitals are working harder to create a safe environment, and that’s good news for patients,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, which administers the Hospital Safety Score. “Since a ream of disappointing studies suggested that through 2010 progress in patient safety was virtually zero, the fact that we are seeing results now is notable.” 

Still, Binder says, with 400,000 lives lost annually, progress is too slow for a problem this hazardous to Americans. “While some hospitals often receive accolades for their surgical teams, state-of-the-art equipment and sought after physicians, many don’t make the grade when it comes to patient safety,” she says. “An institution could have the best surgeons in the world, but if the aftercare is lacking and the patient develops an infection as a result, then the hospital has failed to protect its patient.”

ECRI provides health care information, research, publishing, education and consultation to organizations and individuals in health care. “In a time of competing priorities and limited resources in healthcare, we encourage facilities to use the list as a starting point for patient safety discussions and for setting their patient safety priorities,” says Karen P. Zimmer, MD, MPH, FAAP, medical director at ECRI.

PSM’s leader, Joe Kiani, founder and CEO of Masimo, a manufacturer of non-invasive patient monitoring technologies, says the group has received more than 100 commitments from hospitals, medical tech companies and other organizations dedicated to improving patient safety, some of whom have already been able to show measurable improvement, including saved lives. 

“Our ultimate goal is to eliminate preventable patient deaths, and we’re going to start by creating a patient-centric movement focused on the wellbeing and dignity of patients, and holding everyone involved with healthcare – from patients, policy makers, clinicians, hospitals, and industry – accountable for improving patient safety,” Kiani says.

Ozga is president of Medical Business Exchange, a health care consulting firm based in Vienna, VA and is active on patient safety issues.


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