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HHS Announces $50 Million Investment to Improve Patient Safety

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Press Release Date: October 11, 2001

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced the release of $50 million to fund 94 new research grants, contracts and other projects to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.

The initiative represents the federal government's largest single investment to address the estimated 44,000 to 98,000 patient deaths related to medical errors each year. The 94 projects now being funded will be carried out at state agencies, major universities, hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, physicians' offices, professional societies, and other organizations across the country.

"Nothing could be more important than making sure patients receive quality care that doesn't cause unintended harm, and our investment in this kind of research will pay off in terms of improved patient safety for all Americans," Secretary Thompson said. "These grants will help identify the causes of medical errors and develop effective solutions to strengthen quality of care across the country."

Funded by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), these projects will address key unanswered questions about how errors occur and provide science-based information on what patients, clinicians, hospital leaders, policymakers and others can do to make the health care system safer. The results of this research will identify improvement strategies that work in hospitals, doctors' offices, nursing homes, and other health care settings across the nation.

"Today's announcement marks the first coordinated effort to begin compiling the best evidence on how to reduce medical errors and share that evidence with the clinicians and patients who can use it to improve health care," AHRQ Director John M. Eisenberg, M.D., said. "This patient safety portfolio is a down payment on research that can move us forward in our understanding of the problem of medical errors and what to do about it."

This $50 million research initiative is the first phase of a multi-year effort. Many institutions will receive additional funds to continue their work in future years. These projects reflect the input of consumers, health care providers and policymakers from a national research summit last year led by AHRQ and its partners on the Quality Interagency Coordination (QuIC) Task Force. There are six major categories of awards announced today:

Supporting Demonstration Projects to Report Medical Errors Data: These activities include 24 projects for $24.7 million to study different methods of collecting data on errors or analyzing data that are already collected to identify factors that put patients at risk of medical errors.

Using Computers and Information Technology to Prevent Medical Errors: These activities include 22 projects for $5.3 million to develop and test the use of computers and information technology to reduce medical errors, improve patient safety, and improve quality of care.

Understanding the Impact of Working Conditions on Patient Safety: These activities include eight projects for $3 million to examine how staffing, fatigue, stress, sleep deprivation, and other factors can lead to errors. These issues—which have been studied extensively in aviation, manufacturing and other industries—have not been closely studied in health care settings.

Developing Innovative Approaches to Improving Patient Safety: These activities include 23 projects for $8 million to research and develop innovative approaches to improving patient safety at health care facilities and organizations in geographically diverse locations across the country.

Disseminating Research Results: These activities include seven projects for $2.4 million to help educate clinicians and others about the results of patient safety research. This work will help develop, demonstrate and evaluate new approaches to improving provider education in order to reduce errors, such as applying new knowledge on patient safety to curricula development, continuing education, simulation models, and other provider training strategies.

Additional Patient Safety Research Initiatives: AHRQ will use the remaining $6.4 million for 10 other projects covering other patient safety research activities, including supporting meetings of state and local officials to advance local patient safety initiatives and assessing the feasibility of implementing a patient safety improvement corps.

This research initiative is part of HHS' broader efforts to improve the quality of care in America and better assure safety across health care settings. Since 1998, HHS has served with other federal agencies on the QuIC Task Force to coordinate efforts toward improving the quality of care for patients across America. In addition, Secretary Thompson created the HHS Patient Safety Task Force in April 2001 to coordinate and strengthen the department's existing systems for collecting data on patient safety in concert with the states and the private sector.

For more information or to arrange an interview with an AHRQ official or grantee, please contact Farah Englert, (301) 427-1865 (FEnglert@ahrq.gov).


 

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