University Center Contributes to Patient Safety Debate

Posted: December 10, 1999 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Mary Wakefield, director of the Center for Health Policy, Research, and Ethics, is a coauthor of last week’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” that has sparked congressional concern over medical errors and patient safety.

The report, which gained media attention worldwide with its assertion that more Americans die of medical accidents each year than from breast cancer, AIDS, or automobile accidents, is the work of the IOM Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. As an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, IOM carries substantial weight in the Washington policy community by assembling scientific panels to study technical issues for the federal government.

Among other proposals, the report recommended the creation of a center for patient safety within the Department of Health and Human Services, comparable with the federal agencies that monitor the safety of air travel, nuclear power, and the workplace.

“This discussion is very positive,” says Wakefield. “It’s going to take leadership at all levels to bring our health care industry up to speed on safety–from the water cooler to board rooms to the halls of Congress. We have many of the solutions at hand already, but there has to be a willingness to implement them.” Wakefield’s comments on the issue appeared in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Enquirer, Voice of America, and Fox News, in addition to several other media outlets across the country.

Wakefield is a former member of President Clinton’s Health Care Quality Commission. The Center for Health Policy, Research, and Ethics conducts research, policy analysis, and public education with regard to national health policy issues. For more information, visit the center’s website.

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