Report on Best Practices to Reduce Medical Errors Will Be Issued in Early 2000

NCHC Writers
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Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine released an important study showing that as many as 98,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. The story behind the story is that this report shows just the tip of the iceberg.

The National Coalition on Health Care and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement will release next year a series of reports on medical “best practices.” The first report, to be issued in spring 2000, will deal with how to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety. The second, on care at the end of life, will be released in the fall.

In addition to medical errors, the Coalition and others, including the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry, have documented pervasive quality problems.

According to Henry E. Simmons, M.D., president of the Coalition, “Our health care system is plagued with overuse, underuse, and misuse of many of our medical services.”

In October 1997, the Coalition released a report it commissioned from the RAND Corporation on the state of health care quality in the nation which documented widespread quality problems. In September 1998, the Coalition issued a report by Donald Berwick, M.D., “As Good As It Should Get; Making Health Care Better in the New Millennium.” That report cited numerous examples of how clinicians and administrators had either reduced inappropriate care or improved care – and saved money in the process. These reports are available from the Coalition.

“The Coalition has long talked about quality in health care as ‘doing the right thing right the first time’,” according to Dr. Simmons. “Too often, that doesn’t happen. The gap between optimal medical practice and usual medical practice is often very wide. Despite the extensive quality problems, we have not yet taken the steps necessary to build quality into our health care systems. We must start today to do that. The report from the Institute of Medicine should be a wake-up call to the entire health care industry and to our nation,” he added.

The Coalition put in place last year an initiative — Accelerating Change Today (A.C.T.) For America’s Health — to begin the tough work of identifying best practices and breakthrough innovations in health care and to accelerate their adoption by other health care providers, facilities, and organizations. This initiative is a joint project of the Coalition and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, headed by Donald M. Berwick, M.D., in Boston, and was launched in September 1998.

The medical errors report from the Institute of Medicine is important in alerting the American people and reminding the medical profession that improving the quality of care in our trillion dollar health care system should be the top job of every medical organization in the country, from a small doctor’s office to our biggest hospitals.

“We must put in place a system to enable us to achieve the Hippocratic Oath in the 21st Century: ‘First, do no harm’,” said Donald M. Berwick, M.D., president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s largest and most broadly representative alliance working to improve health care in the nation today. It is a non-profit and non-partisan education and information group based in Washington, D.C. Its nearly 90 member organizations include a diverse array of health care stakeholders. They include leading corporations, major labor unions, large consumer groups, all the primary care provider groups, and representatives of the nation’s major religious faiths. Its Honorary Co-Chairmen are Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford. Its Co-Chairmen are Robert D. Ray, former Republican Governor of Iowa, and Paul G. Rogers, former Democratic Congressman from Florida.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is an independent, non-profit organization based in Boston and founded in 1991. Its founder and president, Donald Berwick, M.D., is one of the nation’s leading authorities on health care quality. The Institute and the Coalition share the critical goal of bringing major quality improvement to the American health care system.

The reports on quality mentioned in this statement, and other reports, are available on the Coalition’s website, or by calling the Coalition at (202) 638-7151.

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