First, Do No Harm


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Paul Levy doesn’t take well to the idea that things just happen in a hospital, whether it’s a central-line infection, a patient fall, or an accommodation for excellence.

Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, insists that improvement be a central tenet of his institution—and the only way to improve things is to monitor them first to establish a baseline.

Many of the roughly 2,500 hospitalists gathered for HM10 here might have expected Levy to talk about the recently passed healthcare reform package. Surprisingly, he instead told them to “ignore the healthcare reform bill" during this morning’s keynote address.

“Ignore all the fuss about it," he said. "Focus instead on the underlying values that you each have individually, and that you have collectively, as to why you became docs in the first place.”

Levy, who is not a physician, has quickly made a name as a leading voice in quality and transparency discussions, particularly via his popular blog. This morning, he told thousands of hospitalists that while change can be difficult, “we are doing too much harm in our hospitals.” He encouraged hospitalists to take charge of quality programs and point out processes and systems that could be improved.

And while he didn’t discount the federal mandate to provide increased access to medical care, he noted that the future delivery of care will improve as a function of thoughtful analysis and dedicated work, not because of new budgeting rules.

“It won’t be because we changed the payment regime,” Levy boasted. “It will be because you did the job.”

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