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University of Illinois At Chicago's Institute For Patient Safety Granted $3 Million To Evaluate Patient-Safety Policies And Procedures At Chicagoland Hospitals

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Patient Safety Excellent has received $3 million of a $23.2 million dollar federal grant given to local governments and aimed at improving safety standards and procedures at medical facilities in an effort to prevent malpractice.

Illinois is one of 16 states awarded a portion of the grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  The grant is part of a patient safety and medical liability initiative announced by President Barack Obama last year.  

The initiative and the developmental projects funded by the grant are rooted in the desire to decrease the incidence of harm caused to patients by medical malpractice, which in theory would promote the initiative's other objective: reducing the costs associated with medical malpractice lawsuits.

The medical community asserts that hospitals are reluctant to disclose medical errors to patients for fear of prosecution for those errors. In turn, that culture of non-disclosure fosters the possibility of repeating the same errors over and over instead of discussing the problem and creating a solution that would prevent reoccurrence of the harm. In response to this industry-wide situation, UIC says that its physicians and health care researchers were amongst the first in the field to devise a response to patient-safety risk events, a system known as the Seven Pillars. There are seven critical elements to this system which UIC says improves the patient-provider communication relationship: event reporting, investigation and root cause analysis, communication and disclosure, apology and remediation, patient safety and system improvements, data tracking and performance evaluation, and education and training.

The Seven Pillars has been in use at UIC's medical center since 2006. The grant money will expand the program to six hospitals within the Resurrection Health Care System, two within the Vanguard Health System, and finally Mount Sinai Hospital. These hospitals will phase in the Seven Pillars over a three year period, which UIC says will allow the researchers involved to analyze the effectiveness of the program in improve patient safety and lessening the hospitals' medical liability.

Dr. Timothy McDonald, a lead researcher on the project and chief safety and risk officer for health affairs for UIC, spoke of the long-term goals of the project in a press release. "Our method puts patients first, and we believe that the best way to get a handle on medical malpractice is by improving patient safety throughout the institution." He added, "It's really a program about changing the culture in hospitals and our relationships with patients."

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