Johns Hopkins, a well-known and highly respected hospital based in Maryland, recently announced the creation of a new, well-funded patient safety program. Johns Hopkins will put in place a Patient Safety Institute to target the problems of patient injury and medical error.
The institute’s stated goal is to improve outcomes, both for patients at Johns Hopkins and patients at other hospitals. It will work to accomplish this goal by serving as a “learning laboratory” in which new safety initiatives can be tested. These will include measures designed to reduce preventable medical errors and other preventable injuries to patients, to eliminate or reduce disparities in healthcare between groups of people, to advance collaboration between medical professionals, and between medical professionals and patients, and to create greater accountability for errors and harm when they do occur. In short, the Institute will seek ways to force doctors and hospitals to do what, in the opinion of our top medical malpractice attorneys, they should have been doing all along.
The new institute was made possible by a $10 million donation from C. Michael Armstrong. Armstrong is the chair of the Johns Hopkins Board of Trustees, and the former chair of several major corporations: Comcast, AT&T, and IBM. The new project will be named in his honor, and be know as the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. It is expected that Armstrong will be named as Director of the Institute.
Armstrong himself is pleased with the new Institute and its goals. Making an announcement of the new project, he stated that, “I believe that everything we do at Johns Hopkins Medicine-research, education, clinical practice, hospital care-is driven by our priority and focus on patients. We have been making excellent progress on patient safety and quality, but we can do better. We must take our patient safety research and results to the next level, to be the best.”
Indeed. As our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have previously noted, even the best hospitals often have unacceptable safety records on some of the most basic of issues. For example, Loyola, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois, were all ranked as “significantly worse” than average on rates of infection caused by medical care. Loyola was also ranked significantly worse than average on rates of bedsores, and the University of Chicago was ranked significantly worse than average on rates of post-operative bacterial sepsis.
Hospitals have finally been made to realize that this state of affairs cannot continue. While we would have hoped that hospitals would have been motivated simply by the desire to protect patients, in the end it was only financial pressure which has led some hospitals to begin to take steps to change their culture of error.
This emerging change is directly linked to increased pressure from government and, at times insurance companies – the institutions and programs which primarily compensate hospitals for their services, through private plans, Medicare, and Medicaid. As these programs have increasingly refused to compensate hospitals for the treatment resulting from their own errors, hospitals have finally been given a true incentive – that is, a financial incentive – to focus on patient safety.
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