the pittsburgh regional health initiative pushing for oversight

For 11 years, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) has worked hard to improve patient safety in southwestern Pennsylvania. Taking the stance that good healthcare should be a local initiative and not just a federal one, doctors, community leaders and others have come together to decrease hospital negligence and medical errors.

Despite their local focus, PRHI has not given up on pushing for improving oversight at a national level. Just last year, the group threw its support behind the creation of a “federal patient-safety agency.” They’re not the only ones at the table, but they are one of the first and Pennsylvania has plenty of reason to be proud of these trailblazers for improved healthcare.

Improving health and safety standards in hospitals is in the forefront of many minds, or should be, this month. A study on healthcare spending, released this year, showed that a whopping 25 percent of costs were associated with completely preventable medical errors.

As Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD and CEO of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, points out, we already know how to make hospitals safer. The causes of hospital-acquired infections, medication errors (as in the case of Dennis Quaid’s children), and common surgical mistakes have been uncovered to a large degree.

The problem right now isn’t knowing what to change and where to change it, but ensuring that the change actually occurs. In other words, we have the tools; we just need to use them.

The idea of a federal agency mandating hospital procedure is likely not going to be an easy sell to most. To that end, groups like PRHI imagine a more modest government agency, created more for the purpose of corralling and enforcing best practices than taking control of local systems.

If individual decision-making and self-reporting cannot be trusted to protect patients, then perhaps such an idea is worth considering.

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