By DAVE LENCKUS, a veteran business journalist who has covered the insurance industry for more than 20 years.
PHOENIX -- Eliminating preventable incidents that harm hospital patients is achievable but will require hospital risk managers to drive new patient safety approaches through their organizations, according to a panel of healthcare experts at the annual American Society for Healthcare Risk Management Conference.
ASHRM President Michelle Hoppes said during the conference keynote panel discussion this week in Phoenix that eliminating preventable incidents is possible but will be a long-term, ongoing endeavor.
Hoppes, a senior vice president and national director of healthcare risk management and patient safety at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Grand Ledge, Mich., also stressed the importance of improving communication and collaboration throughout a hospital organization and changing its culture so risk management can breach the silo walls that impede change.
Jack Jordan, a deputy director with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, encouraged attendees to join with half of the U.S. hospitals he said have pledged to join the Obama Administration'sPartnership for Patients.
The partnership is a public-private collaboration of leaders of major hospitals, employers, physicians, nurses, patient advocates and state and federal government agencies with two goals designed to save $35 billion in health system costs.
One goal is to reduce preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent by year-end 2013 compared with 2010 levels. That would mean about 60,000 saved lives and 1.8 million fewer injuries to patients, Jordan said.
The other goal is cutting hospital readmissions by 20 percent over the same period. That would mean 1.6 million patients would recover from their illnesses without suffering a preventable complication that forces them back into the hospital within 30 days of their initial discharge.
One of the "hottest tools" available for reducing preventable harm is team training, said Dr. William Munier, director of the Center for Quality Improvement & Patient Safety at the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense in adapting this battlefield technique -- which has substantially reduced battlefield deaths -- for use in healthcare settings, Munier explained.
After adopting the technique, the Veterans Administration reduced surgical mortality 18 percent, he said.
The agency also is set to release a standardized data format for all hospitals to use when collecting and analyzing data on patient safety, he said. A data standard is important if hospitals are going to benchmark themselves and attempt to replicate successes at other facilities, he said.
Using data and making it "personal down to the unit level" is among the most important measures that hospitals can take to reduce preventable patient harm, said Kenneth Krakauer, a senior vice president with Sentara Healthcare.
Referring to criticism of NASA in the aftermath of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion, healthcare expert James Conway cautioned hospital risk managers and senior management against developing the "arrogance of excellence."Rather than bask in what they are doing right, hospital officials must develop a "preoccupation with failure," said Conway, a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. They have to focus on what adverse incident occurred, why it happened and how to prevent a recurrence, he said.
Critically, hospitals also should develop a crisis management plan before an event occurs and "stop making it up as [they] go along," Conway said.
To that end, the IHI has published an expanded edition of its year-old white paper, "Respectful Management of Serious Clinical Adverse Events," Conway announced. Among other things, the new edition guides hospitals in developing a crisis management plan. It's available free on both the IHI and the ASHRM Web sites: www.IHI.org and www.ahrm.org.
Healthcare attorney Lisa Diehl Vandecaveye encouraged hospital risk managers to embrace the challenge of the work ahead as an opportunity to "exhibit our creative sides."
Vandecaveye, a board member of the American Health Lawyers Association and vice president of legal affairs at Botsford Health Care Continuum, said risk managers should "aggressively participate" in their organizations' quality initiatives and hone their leadership skills through additional education so they are better prepared to drive change through their organizations.
October 20, 2011
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