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Patient Safety Collaboratives: A Chance to Come Together

By: Paul A. Anderson

Calendars are funny things. They’re the same every year—January 1 through December 31—but they change every year, too. Thanksgiving is never on the same date twice in a row, for example, and every fourth year, like this year, we add in an extra day in February just to make sure things balance out.

It’s a happy circumstance, then, that our feature article on efforts to use collaborative processes to promote patient safety fells in the October 2011 issue of our Risk Management Reporter newsletter. October, after all, was the month of National Healthcare Quality Week (October 16 to 22, 2011) as well as the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management’s annual conference (October 16 to 19, 2011, in Phoenix)—a week when both groups paused, independently, to celebrate their successes, learn from each other, and begin working toward goals for a new year.

In our Risk Analysis, Risk Management, Quality Improvement, and Patient Safety, we identify patient safety as the intersection of the risk management and quality improvement disciplines. Collaboratives like the ones described in this issue offer new ways for risk managers, quality improvement professionals, and front-line staff in hospitals to work together rather than independently.

Running a successful collaborative demands the input of both groups. A successful collaborative requires the use of solid data to identify best practices; effective education, promotion of success stories, and ongoing monitoring are all necessary for a collaborative to have a lasting effect, and are all areas that quality and risk professionals need to be involved with.

Most important, according to the experts in our article, leadership buy-in is a must for a successful collaborative. Risk managers and quality improvement professionals alike can play a key role—and establish themselves as leaders—by coming together to support collaboratives and finding ways to spread the word about patient safety victories.

In the article, Karen Zimmer, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, clinical director, ECRI Institute, says medicine can be a “balancing act” between art and science. Risk managers and quality improvement professionals balance art and science every day and can use collaboratives as a chance to come together—in October or any other month—to support each other, and patients, in steadying the balance.

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