Trustees asked to focus on safety

In the past, hospital trustees have served as something of a cheering section, advising management but just as importantly, rallying support within the communities the hospital serves. Of late, however, hospital trustees are being asked to expand their role to focus on patient safety issues. While trustees are in no position to make medical decisions, they are more likely to nudge the board in the right direction if they focus on patient safety, observers say.

For example, in her role as trustee of Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Medical Center, manufacturing CEO Katherine E. Putnam gets frequent reports on safety issues like medication errors and physician performance, and works to address any problems directly. Putnam sees her role as fixing the broken processes that allowed errors to happen. "We're not really focused on, as tragic as it was, a bad outcome. We're focused on making sure that outcome never happens again to somebody else," Putnam says.

To further encourage trustee involvement with these problems, the Massachusetts Hospital Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts are developing a curriculum designed to teach board members how to ask the right safety questions--and how to see to it that any problems get addressed.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this article from The Boston Globe

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