In 2007, EMMC and the other EMHS member hospitals made the bold commitment to completely eliminate preventable medical errors. This summer, after six years of consistent progress, EMMC took a significant leap toward achieving this vision: for the months of July and August, the medical center had zero preventable errors in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) core measures for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and surgery.
Core measures are evidence-based standards of care that hospitals across the country are required to track and report. Examples of core measures in CMS’ four areas of focus include starting the right treatments to prevent blood clots, always giving certain medications at the right times, and providing required education to patients.
“Most of the preventable errors made in medicine are not life-threatening and do not change the course of care, but when we can completely avoid them, we help improve outcomes for our patients,” said James Raczek, MD, FAAFP, EMMC senior vice president, chief operating officer, and chief medical officer. “Starting an antibiotic just one minute past a certain window of time or keeping a urinary catheter in for an extra day constitutes an error. It’s a constant challenge to be perfect every time, but we continue to make great progress towards attaining that goal each and every month.”
EMMC performs very well compared to other hospitals. According to the most recent available data from www.whynotthebest.org, between October 2011 and September 2012, 99.31 percent of EMMC patients received all of the recommended care for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and surgery. This is significantly higher than the national average of 97.85, and only 0.14 percentage points below the average of the highest performing hospitals in the nation, those in the top 10 percent.
Dr. Raczek believes that EMMC’s achievement is the result of an employee-led culture of safety that has been built at the hospital. Employees at the bedside are encouraged to identify potential safety issues and come up with solutions to prevent errors. When an error is made, it is thoroughly reviewed, and changes are implemented to prevent similar errors in the future. EMMC also leverages technology, including an electronic medical record, to reduce the likelihood of errors.
“The commitment EMMC and EMHS made to reach zero preventable errors was seen as a very progressive step forward in 2007,” added Dr. Raczek. “Even today, it’s quite a remarkable accomplishment, and we’re proud of the work our employees have done to help us become a leader in patient safety. While we’re happy to have achieved zero preventable errors for two consecutive months, we won’t rest until errors are permanently eliminated.”