A recent Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) report, “Making Health Care Safer II: An Updated Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Safety Practices,” holds nearly 1,000 pages of practice-management tips for improving outcomes. But where does a hospitalist begin when reviewing such a massive playbook for progress?
Jim Battles, PhD, an AHRQ social science analyst for patient safety who worked on the report, says the best place to start is by asking yourself: “What keeps you up at night? … What scares the heck out of you?”
The report, a follow-up to the influential and controversial 2001 report “Making Health Care Safer: A Critical Analysis of Patient Safety Practices,” is viewed by its authors as the next step in the continuum of improving patient outcomes. The latest research culled a list of more than 100 patient-safety practices (PSPs) down to 10 that should be “strongly encouraged” and another dozen that are “encouraged.” Battles looks at the 2001 report as more about pushing physicians to think about PSPs, with the updated version as a guidebook on how to think about it.
—Jim Battles, PhD, an AHRQ social science analyst for patient safety, co-author of new AHRQ report
Paul Shekelle, MD, PhD, director of the Southern California Evidence-Based Practice Center site of RAND Corp., which AHRQ commissioned to produce the report, says that some might look at safety initiatives since the landmark Institute of Medicine report “To Err is Human” in 1999 and question whether enough progress has been made. But all progress is meaningful to individual patients, and the improvements of the past decade and a half have been important, he adds.
“What I believe is that we’ve made a lot of progress in certain areas,” Dr. Shekelle says, “but this can’t be seen when we look at aggregate data, because the improvements we have seen don’t account for a sufficiently large proportion in aggregate of the overall patient safety problem.”
Dr. Shekelle—one of three co-principal investigators on the report, along with Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, FCCM, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and HM pioneer Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, chief of the division of hospital medicine at the University of California at San Francisco—says he hopes physicians realize that while the report’s recommendations are evidence-based, they’re not a magic bullet.
“One of the main messages of our report is this is not like writing a prescription for a statin,” Dr. Shekelle says. “This is going to take work. It’s going to take local adaptation, and it’s going to take talking to your front-line clinicians to try and find out how to make this thing work.”
Dr. Wachter, who helped craft both the 2001 and 2013 reports, says patient safety “can be one of those things that is so compelling and so dramatic that you develop a little bit of Nike syndrome—let’s just do it, let’s just computerize, let’s just do teamwork training, let’s do simulation.” However, the healthcare system has a much better, deeper understanding of patient safety and “the role of context, the role of the setting, the role of collateral interventions. It’s generally not going to be one thing that’s the magic bullet, but it’s going to be one thing embedded in a series of other activities that are designed to make sure that you have the right design and the right culture.”