Advancing Patient Safety in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

March 15, 2011 | Volume 9

Authors: Douglas McCarthy, M.B.A., and Deborah Chase, M.P.A.
Contact: Douglas McCarthy, M.B.A., Issues Research, Inc., dmccarthy@issuesresearch.com
Editor: Joris Stuyck

Overview

As part of a systemwide transformation, the VA formed its National Center for Patient Safety to foster an organizational culture of safety within its nationwide network of hospitals and outpatient clinics. A recent medical team training program designed to improve communication among operating room staff was associated with a reduction in surgical mortality and improvements in quality of care, on-time surgery starts, and staff morale. The program is now being expanded to other clinical units, along with a patient engagement program that prevents errors by facilitating communication relating to patients' daily care plans. A recognition program stimulated facilities to conduct timelier and higher-quality root-cause analyses of reported safety events to identify stronger actions for preventing their recurrence. Other initiatives have reduced rates of health care–associated infections, patient mortality, and post-operative complications. Success factors include leadership accountability for performance and organizational support for testing, expanding, and adopting improvements.


This study was based on publicly available information and self-reported data provided by the case study institution(s). The aim of Commonwealth Fund–sponsored case studies of this type is to identify institutions that have achieved results indicating high performance in a particular area of interest, have undertaken innovations designed to reach higher performance, or exemplify attributes that can foster high performance. The studies are intended to enable other institutions to draw lessons from the studied institutions' experience that will be helpful in their own efforts to become high performers. Even the best-performing organizations may fall short in some areas or make mistakes—emphasizing the need for systematic approaches to improve quality and prevent harm to patients and staff. The Commonwealth Fund is not an accreditor of health care organizations or systems, and the inclusion of an institution in the Fund's case study series is not an endorsement by the Fund for receipt of health care from the institution.

Citation

D. McCarthy and D. Chase, Advancing Patient Safety in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, The Commonwealth Fund, March 2011.