Global patient safety improvement effort needed

Already identified as the third-leading cause of death in the United States, preventable medical errors are also a major global health concern that for too long have been accepted as inevitable, according to a new report by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global initiative of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

To tackle this persistent crisis in healthcare, Peter Pronovost, M.D., senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, oversaw a team of international experts to produce WISH's report, which was released Tuesday. Pronovost also serves as the director of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality and patient safety chair for WISH. 

Despite implementing a variety of safety initiatives, the healthcare industry continues to struggle with the issue of patient safety because these efforts are too narrowly focused, the report argues. Furthermore, the industry must challenge the heroism norm, in which "healthcare has grown accustomed to a care system that is wholly dependent on save-the-day actions."

"Through the work undertaken behind today's WISH report it is clear that what is missing is a systematic, sector-wide approach, underpinned by sound principles in safety science. In their current state, healthcare systems too often harm rather than help," Pronovost said in an announcement emailed to FierceHealthcare.

After identifying a number of gaps in the current approach to patient safety, the report makes the following recommendations for a multi-nation, interdisciplinary care quality improvement effort:

  • Develop a patient safety declaration and have nations commit resources to the effort
  • Convene a panel of experts to develop standardized metrics and definitions for preventable patient harms
  • Use systems engineering to create a plan for integrating—and defining responsibilities for--multiple systems needed to improve patient safety
  • Work with stakeholders in candidate nations and local organizations to develop holistic patient safety solutions that are tailored to specific cultures and available resources

The WISH report is not the first to call for change in a healthcare system that some say has been "excruciatingly slow" in addressing patient safety issues. One expert has called for a national, independent patient safety board to tackle the issue in the U.S., and a nonprofit is working toward the lofty goal of eliminating preventable hospital deaths by 2020, FierceHealthcare has reported. 

To learn more:
- here's the report