Carmela Coyle of the Maryland Hospital Association: Hospitals: First, Do No Harm

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National Patient Safety Awareness Week is March 13-19, and it’s when patient safety advocates across the nation work to increase awareness of all that is happening to reduce harm to patients as a result of healthcare-acquired conditions – those that a patient might have contracted during their hospital or nursing home stay. Here in Maryland, safety is wrapped up in everything that hospitals do, because our state does things differently.

Maryland is the only state in the nation that sets the rates hospitals can charge, and our agreement with the federal government that allows this unique system tightly monitors patient safety. Hospitals are meeting aggressive goals to make sure patients have the follow-up care they need so they don’t have to return to the hospital, and to reduce infections (two longstanding measures of quality and safety for health care). As importantly in Maryland, our system is helping hospitals make great progress in transforming health care by redefining the traditional hospital and taking care of entire communities, not just individual illnesses and injuries. Hospitals throughout the state are retooling to improve the care they provide and the method of providing that care, and we are on a path toward nurturing longer, healthier lives right now and for future generations.

A new report from the Maryland Hospital Association highlights a few of the achievements that hospitals have attained in the quality arena in 2015. Among others, hospitals have:

- Agreed to strict emergency department guidelines when prescribing opioids to help curb the state’s epidemic of abuse
- Helped Maryland earn recognition by the March of Dimes as the first state in the nation to have 100 percent of its birthing hospitals reduce the rate of early elective deliveries to less than 5 percent for six consecutive months
- Committed to a national campaign designed to reduce and eliminate health disparities across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups
- Reduced preventable infections and complications by more than 37 percent
- Reduced the readmissions rate faster than the rest of the nation
- Achieved a 94 percent compliance rate for hand hygiene best practices
- Launched kIDsafe, a statewide public awareness campaign to protect children from identity theft

These accomplishments mean that Marylanders who need health care can be assured that hospitals are working every day to examine data, listen to their patients and communities, and refine protocols to improve safety. Much of this work is being done under the unique agreement with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that provides a framework to reduce per capita health care costs, improve the health of communities, and improve the care experience for patients.

Since this agreement was signed in January 2014, hospitals have begun to move care beyond their four walls and into communities, to help Marylanders get healthy and stay healthy for life. This means proactive care to provide the support patients need, such as:

- Bedside prescription delivery and pre-scheduled follow-up appointments
- Health navigation programs to ensure patients see the right doctors and receive the right medications and services
- Wellness programs, like preventive health screenings
- Chronic disease support services to help manage long-term illnesses like diabetes

Of course, none of this success would be possible without the help of the communities and patients that hospitals are privileged to serve. While hospitals are often the conduit to a healthier, longer life, patients are becoming more and more knowledgeable about their own care, and making informed decisions about how they can take control of their own health. The Maryland Patient Safety Center, which operates several initiatives to reduce preventable harm for patients, is helping hospitals develop a shared culture of safety among providers.

As hospitals and patients progress together in the journey toward safer, better health care, we encourage patients to empower themselves with the information needed to make smart decisions about their health. Hospitals have been community foundations for generations, and the safety and well-being of their patients and communities is embedded in every one of their mission statements.
Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, once said, “The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.” That’s as true today as it was in the 19th century, and it’s a bedrock principle ingrained in everything that we do.

Carmela Coyle is the President & CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association. Her email address is ().

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