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Quality Care is Safe Care

Dr. George Sigounas addresses the recent cross-agency Patient Safety Expo, hosted by HRSA's Bureau of Primary Health Care. The gathering featured a panel discussion on federal efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. addresses the recent cross-agency Patient Safety Expo. The gathering featured a panel discussion on federal efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

 

A primary concern: Established in 1997 by the National Patient Safety Foundation, Patient Safety Week 2018  brought together experts from across the department to highlight ongoing patient safety initiatives in HHS programs. Clockwise from upper-left, Dr. Jeffrey Brady, Dir. AHRQ Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety;  Dr. Judy Steinberg, BPHC Chief Medical Officer, with her AHRQ counterpart, Dr. David Meyers; Anita Thomas, CMS Patient Safety Program Lead;  Dr. Aaron Lopata, MCHB Chief Medical Officer; Sherrillyn Crooks, Chief, HAB HIV Education Branch.
A primary concern: Established in 1997 by the National Patient Safety Foundation, Patient Safety Week 2018  brought together experts from across the department to highlight ongoing patient safety initiatives in HHS programs. Clockwise from upper-left, Dr. Jeffrey Brady, Dir. AHRQ Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety;  Dr. Judy Steinberg, BPHC Chief Medical Officer, with her AHRQ counterpart, Dr. David Meyers; Anita Thomas, CMS Patient Safety Program Lead;  Dr. Aaron Lopata, MCHB Chief Medical Officer; Sherrillyn Crooks, Chief, HAB HIV Education Branch.

 

At the recent Patient Safety Expo hosted by HRSA's Bureau of Primary Health Care, HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. singled out several HRSA programs -- including MCHB's Bright Futures and Title V Block Grants, and BHW's National Practitioner Data Bank -- and said agency risk management reviews, site visits, and technical assistance training sessions provide not only oversight but also the latest alerts on evolving best practices to clinicians in the field.

The data bank, in particular, "prevents practitioners from moving from state to state" without disclosing previous adverse findings against them, "with the ultimate goal of protecting the public and promoting quality health care," Dr. Sigounas said, adding that the system is used by over 23,000 organizations to vet clinicians.

In 2017 alone, the data bank provided over 7.8 million query responses and took in over 78,000 new reports.

The use of such digital systems is expanding, said CAPT Jeff Brady of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which has been studying electronic patient safety systems for two decades.

"The digitization of health care opens up a world of possibilities," Brady said. "The ability to track and analyze patient safety problems in something that resembles real time" has avoided more than three million instances of hospital-acquired conditions alone, the agency estimates, while saving some 125,000 lives and $28 billion in costs.

CAPT Beth Fritsch, FDACAPT Beth Fritsch, who manages the FDA's MedWatch program, agreed.  The online system allows hospitals, clinicians and consumers to report adverse drug events and interactions, suspicious dosing instructions, even packaging flaws, for inclusion in a searchable public data base that now has more than 400,000 subscribers.

Among recent FDA safety measures: new guidelines on prescribing opioid-replacement medications such as buprenorphine to patients already using benzodiazepines (i.e., Valium, Xanax, Librium) -- given the risk of adverse interactions -- and more explicit labeling of cough syrups containing codeine or hydrocodone for patients under age 18. The agency is also investigating the widespread problem of overprescribing.

"If you go to see a dentist for an extraction," Fritch said, "should you really be receiving 60 Percocet? ... So it's really trying to get about the overprescribing associated with some  common procedures."

Similarly, Anita Thompson of the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that the agency is expanding "overutilization monitoring"  --  as are increasing numbers of state governments and private insurers -- to identify doctor-shopping patients who seek prescriptions from multiple providers. One hospital network in Colorado was able to reduce opioid prescribing in its emergency rooms by 36 percent in a matter of months through better monitoring, Thompson said.

Watch the webcast HRSA Exit Disclaimer to learn more.

Date Last Reviewed:  March 2018