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President Clinton announces new actions to improve patient safety and assure health care quality

President Clinton recently unveiled a series of landmark initiatives to boost patient safety. These initiatives will help create an environment and a system in which providers, consumers, and private and public purchasers work to achieve the goal set by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine (IOM) to reduce preventable medical errors by 50 percent over 5 years.

The initiatives are set forth in detail in a new report on medical errors compiled by the Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force (QuIC), which is co-chaired by HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. John M. Eisenberg, M.D., Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, serves as QuIC chairman for day-to-day operations. The report is being disseminated by AHRQ on behalf of the QuIC. The goal of the QuIC is to ensure that all Federal agencies involved in purchasing, providing, studying, or regulating health care services are working in a coordinated way toward the common goal of improving quality of care.

Developed in response to the President's call for action in December 1999, the QuIC response endorses virtually every IOM recommendation proposed and includes actions that surpass those recommended by IOM. Consistent with the QuIC recommendations, the new initiatives call for:

  1. A new center for patient safety.
  2. A requirement that each of the over 6,000 hospitals participating in Medicare have error reduction programs in place.
  3. New actions to improve the safety of medications, blood products, and medical devices.
  4. A mandatory reporting system in the 500 military hospitals and clinics which serve over 8 million patients.
  5. A phased-in nationwide State-based system of mandatory and voluntary error reporting.

Medical errors are common and costly. The IOM estimates that over half of adverse medical events are due to preventable medical errors, causing up to 98,000 deaths a year and costing as much as $29 billion annually. One study of over 30,000 patients indicated that nearly 60 percent of patients suffering adverse events in a hospital stay were subjected to a preventable medical error.

Print copies of the report, Doing What Counts for Patient Safety (Publication No. OM 00-0004), are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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