Eliminating preventable harm
August 31, 2011 |  by Dale Keiger

In November 2010, Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued an estimate of how many Medicare recipients came to harm while they were patients in U.S. hospitals. Levinson’s office had surveyed a sample of the 1 million Medicare patients discharged by hos­pitals in October 2008, and determined that 27 percent, more than one in four, had experienced “adverse events” or “temporary harm events”—additional illness or complications caused by medical errors, hospital-acquired infections, substandard care, and lack of patient monitoring and assessment. Such events had also contributed to the deaths of an estimated 15,000 people in this one month and cost Medicare an estimated $324 million. Physician reviewers who participated in the study concluded that 44 percent of these events had been preventable.

A new Johns Hopkins center, the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, aims to eliminate preventable harm to patients throughout the Johns Hopkins system and provide a learning laboratory to rigorously test patient safety measures for all health care facilities. The new institute is funded by a $10 million gift from C. Michael Armstrong, chairman of the board of Johns Hopkins Medicine. A previous $20 million gift from Armstrong funded construction of the Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building on the Hopkins medical campus.

In a Johns Hopkins news release, Johns Hopkins Medicine CEO Edward D. Miller noted, “For every dollar the U.S. government spends on research, 98 cents are spent on finding new genes and new drugs, while only two pennies go to safety and quality initiatives.”

Peter J. Pronovost, professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the School of Medicine, has been appointed the institute’s first director.