January 2005 MedBytes: Patient Safety


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The 1999 Institute of Medicine IOM report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System , has caused patient safety to be at the forefront of today's health care concerns. The goal, creating an improved health care environment of safety, has led to the posting of numerous online sites that focus on or discuss this topic. This month's MedBytes takes a look at a few of them.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ's) mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AHRQ sponsors and conducts research that provides evidence-based information on health care outcomes, quality, cost, use, and access. The information helps health care decision-makers -- patients and clinicians, health system leaders, purchasers, and policymakers -- to make more informed decisions and improve the quality of health care services. AHRQ's site at www.ahrq.gov provides clinical information, funding opportunities, research findings, and quality assessment data.

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations
Governed by a board that includes physicians, nurses, and consumers, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) evaluates nearly 16,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States . As an independent, nonprofit organi z ation, it focuses on improving the quality and safety of treatment provided by health care organi z ations. The Web site, www.jcaho.org, contains a list of accredited organi z ations, the latest newsletters, information on how to become accredited or certified by JCAHO, and access to Quality Check -- a comprehensive guide to JCAHO-accredited health care organizations and programs in the United States.

National Patient Safety Foundation
Created to improve the safety of patients and serve as an invaluable resource, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) believes patient safety is central to quality health care. In 2002, NPSF launched the Stand Up for Patient Safety campaign, which brings together leading hospitals and health systems committed to developing a hospital-driven, patient-focused safety agenda. Annual reports (overviews of patient safety programs and opportunities) and a bibliography encompassing materials from medical, legal, news, and other sources can be found online at www.npsf.org. The site also contains a Patient Safety Store with educational materials from various vendors.

The Leapfrog Group for Patient Safety
The Leapfrog Group is an initiative driven by organizations buying health care and working to initiate breakthrough improvements in the safety, quality, and affordability of health care for Americans. The 1999 IOM report gave the Leapfrog founders an initial focus -- reducing preventable medical mistakes. Leapfrog works with medical experts throughout the United States to identify problems and propose solutions that it believes will improve hospital systems that could break down and harm patients. The site, www.leapfroggroup.org, provides online information for consumers, the chance to become a Leapfrog member, access to the Leapfrog Group Hospital Quality and Safety Survey, and the opportunity to read the latest Leapfrog news releases.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Promoting patient safety and health care quality is an integral part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) public health focus. Part of the overall CDC site, the Patient Safety page at www.cdc.gov/washington/overview/patntsaf.htm gives information about CDC's campaign to prevent adverse events in health care settings through its infection-prevention program and the National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance System. Additionally, the site presents a list of related public health bills and access to CDC reports.

Institute of Medicine
Chartered in 1970, the mission of the IOM is to serve as an adviser to the nation to improve health. The institute's work centers principally on committee reports or studies on subjects ranging from quality of medical care to the national smallpox vaccination program, from centers of excellence at the National Institutes of Health to protecting the nation's food supply. The Web site, www.iom.edu, not only includes information about IOM's 17 topic areas, it also presents current projects and an opportunity to read past reports.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  


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