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March 2010

No Reduction in Patient Safety Incidents at Hospitals

19090338 According to a new HealthGrades, Inc. study released today, there were at least one million patient safety incidents at hospitals between the years 2006-2008.  This figure is unchanged since last year's study.  Together, these incidents cost the nation almost $9 billion.  Even more tragic than the costs is the fact that one in ten of these incidents ended in death.  HealthGrades uses measures called patient safety indicators from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to analyze hospital safety.

Physicians Not Optimistic About Quality Trends

Yesterday, Sermo, Inc. and athenahealth released a joint survey of 1,000 physicians called the Physician Sentiment Index.  The first survey of its kind, it suggests that physicians are pessimistic about the future of health care.  In fact,

  • 64% say that the health care environment is detrimental to their delivery of quality care
  • 59% believe the quality of medicine will decline in America over the next five years

Despite the medical advances that enter into the health care delivery system on an ongoing basis, only 18% believe that the quality of medicine will improve over the next five years.  However, seven in ten physicians believe that electronic health records can help reduce medical errors and improve physician compliance with clinical guidelines and feel that the benefits justify the costs of installing such systems.

Medical Schools Falling Short in Equipping Future Doctors to Provide Safe Care

16444899 According to a report issued last week by the National Patient Safety Foundation, medical schools are not doing enough to train future doctors to provide safe care.  The Lucian Leape Institute convened 40 leading experts in medical education, patient safety, and health care improvement.  They found:

  • Medical schools do not teach safety science and do not equip doctors in training with needed interpersonal skills
  • Medical schools and teaching hospitals need to create learning cultures that emphasize patient safety, transparency, and collaborative behavior
  • Medical Schools and teaching hospitals need to begin intensive patient safety training for faculty so that they can serve as adequate models for their students

The report also suggests that the accrediting bodies for medical schools (the Liaison Committee on Medical Education) and residency programs (the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) revise their accreditation standards to promote a more significant focus on patient safety.

Experts Argue for Partnership to Reduce Harm to Patients from Devices

32141354 Modeled after the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, a new partnership in health care could greatly reduce errors that harm patients, say leading experts in patient safety.  Citing growing awareness of the dangers of radiation therapies, such as reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, Peter Pronovost and colleagues suggest that to reduce the risk of harm to patients from medical devices, health care needs a private-public partnership to supplement the professional, regulatory and financial incentives in place today.  Clearly, the mounting data on patients harmed from mistakes in radiation therapy provide one strong case example on the need for such a partnership. 

To achieve a successful partnership modeled after the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, which has contributed to the ongoing decline in deaths due to aviation, Dr. Pronovost and his colleagues cite the need for leadership, financing and active participation by relevant government agencies, provider groups and health care delivery systems.

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