Saving Lives 122,342 at a Time

This week marks a milestone in saving the lives of hospital patients who 18 months ago would have died from preventable medical errors. 122,342 people nationally with 2,500 from North Carolina can be very thankful for the efforts of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's campaign to save 100,000 lives.

The fact that up to 100,000 people die unnecessarily each year from medical injury was widely chronicled after being first reported in the 2000 landmark report by the Institute of Medicine, To Err is Human. The IHI launched its 100,000 Lives Campaign by enlisting more than 3,000 acute care hospitals nationwide to implement some or all of six evidence-based practices that improve health care quality and save lives.

The practices focus on preventing medication errors; saving heart attack victims; and preventing hospital-borne infections and the kind of pneumonia common among patients who are on ventilators for an extended period of time. The campaign also calls for the creation of a Rapid Response Team, a medical SWAT team that brings critical care expertise to patients in crisis.

I am proud to be part of a hospital system that practices all six life-saving interventions of the 100,000 Lives Campaign. These practices have had a measurable impact on the health of our patients. For example, certain types of infections in the Intensive Care Unit have been reduced by 50 percent. According to IHI, the mortality for these particular infections may be as high as 18 percent, so reducing the rate represents a significant number of lives saved. Moreover, we have been recognized as a mentor hospital by IHI for our Pediatric Rapid Response Ream.

During the course of the campaign, we have enhanced our electronic medical records system to improve the accuracy of medication orders when a patient is transferred from one unit to another, and also to improve the accuracy of the medication list shared with the patient at the time of discharge. As a result, when a patient is transferred from one unit in the hospital to another, nurses and physicians do not need to rewrite medication orders eliminating confusion about which medications are to be stopped, which are to be continued and which are to be added.

The 100,000 Lives Campaign has shown all health care providers the means and mechanisms for improving the outcomes of the patients they serve. Implementing these new standards was not always easy, but clearly the benefits in patient care demonstrate the success of this important campaign. We should all celebrate this remarkable achievement and demand the industry's continued commitment to ongoing transformation and improvement.

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