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USA: Address ‘plane-crash level’ patient harm, HHS tells hospitals

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra startled a recent meeting of senior health system leaders by declaring in opening remarks that a plane crash had just killed all 200 passengers. He immediately added that this hadn’t really happened; he’d said it only to illustrate the toll taken by medical error.

The 14 November meeting at which Becerra spoke signalled a renewed commitment by HHS to preventing patient harm as it launched an “Action Alliance to Advance Patient Safety.” The Alliance aims to recruit the nation’s largest health systems as participants.

“We’re losing pretty much an airline full of Americans every day to medical error, but we don’t think about it,” said Becerra. (The department’s fiscal 2022-2026 strategic plan actually estimated the death toll at roughly 550 daily, which would be a very large airliner.) “But the worst part about it is that it’s avoidable.”

Though the meeting rhetoric was rousing and the invitee list impressive, specifics remained scarce. The Alliance is described only in general terms as a partnership among health systems, federal agencies, patients and others to implement Safer Together: A National Action Plan to Advance Patient Safety. 

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Source: Forbes, 17 November 2022


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