SOURCE: Orlikoff Reinertsen Boardworks

Orlikoff Reinertsen Boardworks

April 12, 2011 15:16 ET

New National Patient Safety Initiative Highlights Patient Harm in Hospitals, Puts Pressure on Boards

ALTA, WY--(Marketwire - Apr 12, 2011) - The just-announced national initiative on hospital patient safety puts hospital boards on the hot seat, according to the principals of Orlikoff Reinertsen Boardworks LLC, a company specializing in educating and consulting with healthcare boards and medical staffs to improve patient safety and quality.

"Hospital boards are a largely unprepared group of lay people who will bear the burden of success or failure under this new initiative," says James E. Orlikoff, partner in Orlikoff Reinertsen Boardworks.

"In large measure, boards will hold in their hands the fate of not only their patients and hospitals, but also the fate of the American healthcare system," he says.

"The good news is that we know how to do this," said James L. Reinertsen, MD. "Some hospitals have already become much safer. The difference between safe and unsafe hospitals is largely a matter of whether the board has the will to make necessary changes in the hospital's culture." Reinertsen is an internationally recognized expert in leadership for safety, and recent winner of the John L. Eisenberg award.

Hospitals are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., producing more than 100,000 preventable deaths while harming another 15 million patients every year. These deaths and injuries also cause more than $50 billion in unnecessary health care costs annually.

The National Patient Safety Initiative just announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Medicare administrator Dr. Don Berwick puts pressure on hospitals to both save lives and save money.

This groundbreaking initiative will drive an unprecedented partnership among Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers to use financial carrots and sticks to force hospitals to significantly reduce patient injury and readmissions.

Motivated by the frustratingly slow progress in improving hospital safety since the 1999 Institute of Medicine report To Err is Human, this new initiative will put already financially-challenged hospitals at significant risk for huge loss of revenues if they fail to improve patient safety.

This initiative is broken into seven parts: Rapidly improving patient safety; collaborative networks; aligning payment between private and public sectors; rewarding high-performing hospitals; standardized measures; improved patient engagement; and, improved accountability and oversight.

"Whether an individual hospital can accomplish significant improvements in patient safety and simultaneous cost savings will depend on its CEO, its medical staff, but surprisingly, most heavily on its board," says Orlikoff.

"Hospitals and health systems are incredibly complex organizations and they are largely governed by well-meaning amateurs," says Orlikoff. He observes that many hospital boards are composed of the same people who serve on local church and community boards, and yet effective hospital governance poses significantly greater challenges.

Under Medicare and other regulations, it is the hospital board that has the ultimate responsibility for patient safety and quality. It is the board which determines which physicians may be members of the medical staff and what procedures they may practice.

Yet, according to Dr. Reinertsen, many boards are unaware of these responsibilities or don't know how to implement them.

"Most boards think the quality of care in their hospitals is better than it actually is," Dr. Reinertsen says. "To get boards to effectively address patient safety they must first see the problem, then own the problem by recognizing that it is the board's responsibility to do something about it. Then, and only then, can they fix the problem."

Hospitals risk losing 9% of their Medicare payments in 2015 -- some $70 billion over 10 years -- if they fail to demonstrate significant improvement in patient safety.

"Hospitals will have to change in a hurry," says Orlikoff. "With essentially 10% of a hospital's revenue stream on the line for safety, hospital boards face a stark challenge: Improve or die."

Contact Information

  • Contact information:

    To contact Jamie Orlikoff or Dr. James Reinertsen
    call: Anita Snow

    Orlikoff Reinertsen Boardworks