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This week, Virginia Mason Medical Center is participating in Patient Safety Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation. The theme is Focus on Patient Safety: Ask, Listen and Learn, which emphasizes the partnership between health care providers and patients in improving patient safety.

As part of its ongoing commitment to patient safety, Virginia Mason Medical Center has set a single organizational goal for 2005: Ensuring the safety of our patients by eliminating avoidable death and injury. Virginia Mason is focusing on this goal because the best clinical outcomes cannot be achieved without establishing the safest possible environment for patients. Caring for patients safely – eliminating avoidable death and injury – is the foundation for living up to Virginia Mason’s vision of becoming the Quality Leader. That means zero defects in the care that is provided and 100 percent performance on critical safety policies.

Virginia Mason is working to achieve this goal in a number of ways:

Evidence-based practice improvements
Virginia Mason is implementing evidence-based practice improvements in 12 clinical areas proven to dramatically reduce needless injury and death in hospitals. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) recently initiated the 100,000 Lives Campaign, which aims to eliminate 100,000 needless deaths from America’s health care system by June 2006. Virginia Mason is implementing the practice changes recommended by the IHI, as well as additional evidence-based practice changes proven to have a dramatic impact on reducing needless death and injury.

Patient involvement
Virginia Mason has developed a new brochure for all patients that provides practical information to help them take an active role in ensuring their own safety. A partnership between patients and health care providers is important to ensure safety and achieve optimal outcomes.

Mistake-proofing training
All VM staff will be provided with mistake-proofing training this year. This training will help every staff member in their individual efforts to achieve defect-free care.

Improving communications
New patient safety Web sites that highlight Virginia Mason’s patient safety activities are being developed for both the organization’s internal Intranet site as well as New communication tools and methods will be developed to help make the work culture of Virginia Mason truly a culture of safety – for patients as well as staff.

Developing a culture of safety
To achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable death and injury, all VM staff are called to be “safety inspectors” -- empowered to “stop the line” when potential sources of mistakes are discovered, without fear of blame. The fact is that the best clinical outcomes cannot be achieved without establishing the safest possible environment in which to deliver care. That is the reason for Virginia Mason’s focus on patient safety. Our patients deserve no less.

Institute for Healthcare Improvement
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