Keeping Patients Safe: The University of Illinois’ Patient Safety and Medical Liability Project

i-theuniversityofillinoispatientWhen a patient is harmed in a hospital, few people hear about it, especially other patients. That’s why the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Patient Safety Excellence will use a $3 million federal grant to study how Chicago-area hospitals respond when a patient is harmed.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is part of a patient safety and medical liability initiative started by President Obama and will gauge the results of a new response process instituted by the university to effectively deal with patients who are harmed. That new process is designed to improve doctor/patient communication, promote quick action to deal with a patient when he or she is harmed and learn from any and all past mistakes. The process has seven elements, called the “Seven Pillars,” that include reporting, communication and disclosure, investigation and root cause analysis, apology and remediation, data tracking, patient safety, and training and education.

Under the study, physicians and health care researchers will analyze over a three-year span the current efforts to reduce medical liability with the goal of showing dramatic improvement in patient safety and addressing patient needs following an incident.

Previous studies have shown that when hospital staff members quickly address the needs of patients harmed in a hospital, the less likely the hospital will face any type of court action, including lawsuits. Nine hospitals will take part in the study, and researchers will observe and report on unsafe conditions and the number of incidents in each hospital. They will also study the actual reports submitted to upper management to analyze the quality of the report and if management is receiving all the information it should.

Researchers expect that the results of the study will not only improve patient care but also lower malpractice claims against the hospitals.


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