Volume 12, No. 2 • Summer 1997

National Patient Safety Foundation Established

Ellison C. Pierce, Jr., M.D.

Built to a large extent on the model of the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), the AMA has helped establish the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF).

Martin Hatlie, Past Director of the AMAÕs Division of Professional Liability and Insurance, has been the leading force in setting up this organization. Attorney Hatlie has been on the Board of the APSF for a number of years.

Like the APSF, the NPSF will be a multi-cultural, heterogenous organization, with representatives from medical societies, the insurance industry, nursing organizations, the FDA, pharmaceutical safety organizations, consumer societies, risk manage- ment concerns, the AAAS, and many other groups. Among the active participating individuals are Richard Cook, M.D., from the University of Chicago, Jeffrey Cooper, Ph.D., from the Massachusetts General Hospital, David Gaba, M.D., from Stanford, David Woods. Ph.D., from the Ohio State University, and this author. During its organizational days since last Fall, the AMA Board of Trustees has served as the Board for the Foundation. In July, however, the full new NPSF Board, separate from the AMA, comes into existence. This author has been invited to serve on the Executive Committee and Board. The initial meetings have closely examined lessons that can be learned from the aviation safety reporting systems, Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation, and several studies examining hospital errors from the Harvard School of Public Health.

As is the case with the APSF, there will be strong emphasis on research in patient safety, but on a broader range, and on the establishment of a safety newsletter on a large scale. The securing of funding thus far has been quite successful and the editorial and news coverage in the national media quite extensive, including major articles in Medical Economics and the Washington Post.

The National Patient Safety Foundation hopes to change the attitudes of medicine and society as a whole from looking at errors in medicine as a provocation for punishment to the much more sensible examination of the reasons human performance fails in everyone from time to time, occasionally resulting in a medical tragedy. The comments of Dr. Lucien L. Leape, a Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, have been repeatedly noted. He states, ” Doctors and nurses are extremely careful. But even the best people make mistakes. The vast majority of errors are rooted in medicine’s inherent complexity. They are more often reflective of a systems breakdown than an individual failing.” Many of the recent news articles have emphasized the important role that the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation played as a role model and in helping establish the National Patient Safety Foundation.

Dr. Pierce, Boston, MA, is President of the APSF.