Is patient safety a high priority for executives?

July 1, 2006

One might think that the answer would be "no"-especially in light of a recent Health Grades study. That study found a 5% increase between 2002 and 2004 in "patient-safety incidents" among Medicare patients at US hospitals, as well as a 13% increase in infections from IV lines and catheters. The study's only good news was that deaths associated with these infections dropped very slightly from 4,219 to 4,206.

One might think that the answer would be "no"-especially in light of a recent Health Grades study. That study found a 5% increase between 2002 and 2004 in "patient-safety incidents" among Medicare patients at US hospitals, as well as a 13% increase in infections from IV lines and catheters. The study's only good news was that deaths associated with these infections dropped very slightly from 4,219 to 4,206.

But a study conducted for the Health Management Academy, a for-profit provider of continuing medical education for executives of large health systems and academic medical centers, found that patient safety is indeed a high priority among the top brass of large systems. According to Modern Healthcare (4/10/06), patient safety was consistently ranked as the top priority over financial health among chief executive officers (46% vs. 38%, respectively), chief financial officers (50% vs. 41%), chief medical officers (86% vs. 8%) and chief nursing officers (74% vs. 22%). The study also found facilities increased spending on patient safety in 2005, and the number of executives who spent more than a quarter of their time on patient-safety issues increased by 17 percentage points from 2004 to 2005.