Healthcare Quality and Safety

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Working together to improve safety

Advances in health care have dramatically improved both our longevity and overall quality of life. But these advances also have been accompanied by increased complexity and intensity of medical and surgical care, often delivered to vulnerable populations such as the elderly or chronically ill. As a result, research over the past two decades has demonstrated a strikingly high rate of medical and surgical errors. Research now estimates that more than 400,000 Americans die annually from preventable medical errors, making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States. As many as one of every three patients admitted to a hospital has at least one preventable adverse event, such as a health care associated infection, accidental fall or medication error. More than simply avoiding accidental injury, the field of patient safety is also concerned with patients who fail to receive all the treatments they need or who are subjected to the risks of unneeded care because of an incorrect diagnosis. Patient safety, quality and improved population health are therefore inexorably linked.

Working together – patients, health care professionals, advocates and leaders – we can improve safety for our family members and communities and assure the best possible outcomes from modern medical advances. To err is human, but research is demonstrating approaches that can minimize the risk of human error. These approaches include interprofessional education, enhanced patient literacy, innovative high-reliability systems and practices, and evidence-based changes in the health care delivery model. It is also clear that improvement requires collaboration among patients, providers and community leaders aimed at creating a ubiquitous culture of safety and quality, built on the core values of excellence, transparency and continuous learning.

This page was last modified on May 16, 2016