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Bridging the Chasm: Efforts to Improve Health Care Quality

CONTACT: Jane Lang
(617) 338-2726

BOSTON, May 04, 2006 - Determining the best practices to improve the quality of health care in Massachusetts will be the topic of discussion at the May 4th Massachusetts Health Policy Forum at the Radisson Hotel Boston. The forum, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, will feature presentations by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative (PRHI), two organizations that have initiated significant reforms in improving quality of care and patient safety.

A panel discussion will follow the presentations, moderated by Jim Conway, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Panelists will include Janette Clough, president and CEO of Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge; Andrew Dreyfus, Executive Vice President of Health Care Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; John McDonough, Executive Director, Health Care For All, and Kathy Reinhardt, Director of Employee Benefits, Analog Devices.

Dr. Barbara Fleming, Chief Quality and Performance Officer of the VHA, will discuss the reengineering of the VHA that began in the mid-1990s and has resulted in a health care system increasingly recognized as a national leader in quality and safety. Karen Feinstein, PRHI board president, will discuss that organization's target of 'zero errors' in the treatment of patients. The PRHI is a coalition of hospitals, providers, insurers, businesses and elected leaders committed to improving health care quality.

In 1999, following the death of Boston Globe medical writer Betsy Lehman from an overdose of chemotherapy, the Institute of Medicine released a ground-breaking report, 'To Err is Human,' which elevated the problem of medical errors into the national consciousness. Six years later, progress in reducing medical errors and improving patient outcomes has been limited. Errors continue to occur through misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, inconsistent treatment, inadequate communication, equipment malfunctions or systems failures.

While quality of care in Massachusetts is generally above the rest of the country, it should be better. A recent study by the Rand Corporation concluded that adults in the United States receive only 55 percent of recommended care, with few differences found between Boston and 11 other metropolitan areas. A number of initiatives to combat medical errors are underway in Massachusetts, such as MassPro, the state's Healthcare Quality and Improvement Organization operating under the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Other organizations working toward improved patient safety and quality of care are the Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Betsy Lehman Center, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, the Bureau of Health Quality Management, its Division of Health Care Quality and Center for Quality Assurance and Control under the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Office of Patient Protection within the Department of Public Health, the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, the Patients First initiative of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Group Insurance Commission and the Massachusetts e-Health Collaborative.