Hippocrates, Epidemics.“The Physician must be able to do good or to do no harm.”
This is part three of my ongoing series on the journey of hospital medicine and how we are poised for greater things yet. In part one, “Tinder and Spark,” macro changes in the American healthcare landscape pressured primary care physicians to get creative with new ways to practice, the most prominent result being the creation of hospitalist practices. Wachter and Goldman provided the spark that gave the field its name and cohesiveness. In part two, “Fuel,” the Baby Boomers shaped the field, setting the stage for the Generation X physicians who fueled HM’s early growth.
But the field might have stagnated there, the fire attenuated, if not for the rise of something new, something that stoked our growth to new heights.
Orlando, Fla., December 2006.
SHM President-Elect Rusty Holman, MD, MHM, was on stage representing hospitalists at the annual Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) National Forum in front of more than 5,000 enthusiastic attendees representing every discipline of clinical care from hundreds of healthcare organizations across the country and internationally. This was a special event. Two years earlier, IHI President Don Berwick, MD, MPP, had launched an audacious campaign, called the 100,000 Lives Campaign, that aimed to prevent the deaths of 100,000 patients in our nation’s hospitals in the following 18 months, not by utilizing some great new technological advance but by changing the culture around safety and quality in our nation’s hospitals and enacting proven safety methods and processes.1 Out of this plan came widespread use of terms and programs that weren’t widely adopted then but are familiar to all of us now: rapid response teams, medicine reconciliation, surgical site infection prevention, and ventilator-acquired pneumonia.
That program estimated that it saved 122,000 lives.1
IHI was looking to build on the safety and quality infrastructure that had been built up to make the 100,000 Lives Campaign a success and to launch an even bigger program. The 5 Million Lives Campaign’s goal was to reduce incidents of harm in five million patients over the next two years. For this campaign, IHI understood that success could only be achieved with partners. SHM and the field of hospital medicine, which had grown in size and influence, was seen as a critical and influential partner in achieving the goal of reducing harm in our nation’s hospitals. Thus, Dr. Holman was standing on that stage for SHM at the launch of the biggest safety and quality initiative in our nation’s history. SHM was among seven partner organizations, including the American Nurses Association, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the American Heart Association, and the CDC. SHM was the only medical society represented. Pretty heady stuff for a field barely 10 years old. How did we get there? For that story, we need to go back a few years.
In 1984, Libby Zion, an 18-year-old college student, died from serotonin syndrome. A contributing factor was felt to be overworked residents not getting enough sleep. In his landmark 1990 article, “Human Factors in Hazardous Situations,” James Reason, PhD, introduced the world to some key concepts: active versus latent errors and the Swiss cheese model of errors.2 These concepts influence our thinking to this day. In 1994, Betsy Lehman, a health reporter for the Boston Globe, died from a massive chemotherapy overdose. That same year Lucian Leape, MD, a Harvard pediatric surgeon, published his influential article in JAMA, “Errors in Medicine,” which called for a systems approach to improving patient safety.3