Major players begin meeting today in effort to make healthcare safer for patients

Some of the top healthcare groups—including government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—will gather today for the first time to examine new ways to make healthcare safer for patients.

Led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a newly launched steering committee will seek to refocus the industry’s attention on safety and quality goals, such as finding ways to cut down on medical errors. In all, a collection of 24 groups including private organizations like the American Hospital Association and the ECRI Institute will be part of the new committee.

Tejal K. Gandhi, M.D., chief clinical and safety officer at IHI and one of the committee's co-chairs, told FierceHealthcare in an interview that the committee spawned from a call to action released last year by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). By joining forces, these agencies can "achieve more synergy" that drives change, she said. 

Tejal Gandhi IHI
Tejal Gandhi (IHI)

"We can work together to accelerate our progress instead of all of us [working] independently," Gandhi said. 

RELATED: IHI and NPSF will merge to drive nationwide patient safety efforts 

Gandhi said the steering committee is looking to set between 10 and 15 patient safety goals that "haven't had the attention they need." Providers have focused on reducing readmissions or on improving infection rates, for example, but could put more focus on building a culture of safety, she said. 

Innovations in patient safety are crucial as the healthcare system transitions its focus away from traditional sites of care to outpatient and ambulatory settings, according to an announcement from IHI. 

Jeff Brady AHRQ
Jeffrey Brady (AHRQ)

The group notes that medical errors are a common problem. A study released late last year by IHI and NPSF found that one in five patients have experienced an error, and a 2016 study published in The BMJ found that medical harm is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. 

The NPSF's call to action, released in March 2017, centered on the idea that a coordinated effort across the healthcare system was necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of zero patient harm. 

Jeffrey Brady, M.D., director of the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at AHRQ and the committee's other co-chair, told FierceHealthcare that uniting groups with a broad patient safety perspective with ones with a more specialized focus is a crucial idea behind the committee. 

"We're really all at our best when we balance that broad perspective with the deep expertise in specific areas," Brady said. "It's a winning formula." 

RELATED: Diagnostic errors, opioid safety top ECRI's top 10 patient safety priorities for 2018 

Gandhi said the committee members are hoping their efforts bear fruit in the next three years, producing "real measures of success" within that window.