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Today’s organizations often have lists of goals that guide their activity over a given timeframe. This year, Virginia Mason has only one: patient safety. Every activity that takes place at Virginia Mason in 2005 will be directed toward this goal, because there is nothing more important than identifying flawed systems and fixing them so that defect-free patient care may be assured.

Part of this commitment includes Virginia Mason’s participation in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 100,000 Lives Program, an effort to eliminate 100,000 preventable medical errors from America’s health care system by 2006. Virginia Mason will actively work with corporations, state medical associations and other health care organizations in Washington State to achieve the IHI’s safety improvement goals. Achieving these goals will mean significantly improved quality and safety of health care for Washington residents.

In addition, Virginia Mason has begun a campaign to involve patients as a key member of their safety team. Just as all 5,000 VM staff members are considered “safety inspectors” – on the lookout for potential medical errors before they occur – VM is asking patients to be safety inspectors in their own care. As part of this, VM’s staff is receiving training on how to be proactive in welcoming and encouraging participation from patients.

It would likely be more comfortable to pretend that flaws did not exist in today’s health care system. That has been the status quo for too long. It is time to take the next step and involve everyone – from administrators and staff to patients and their families – in courageously speaking up about errors and driving defects out of health care for good.
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