Shands places second nationally in effort to avert medical errors

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.

The University of Florida and Shands placed second in the nation for their ability to report patient safety events aimed at reducing medical errors in hospitals.

The competition was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The Sebastian Ferrero Office of Clinical Quality and Patient Safety at UF&Shands won $15,000 for its second-place finish in developing an online application for hospital staff to report adverse events and medical errors.

According to Linda Allen, quality systems manager at Shands, things such as bed sores, bacterial infections and falls are reported. “We are already tracking and trending, and nationally we’re doing very well in terms of low numbers of incidence,” said Allen.

Another measure, the Hospital Safety Score, comprising a group of global hospital safety experts, gives Shands an “A” rating, which is basically a recommendation that patients should feel confident going to Shands. The grade is based on performance measures from organizations including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

North Florida Regional Medical Center got a “C” according to the same rating, and Florida ranked 10th in the nation for overall safety.

However, NFRMC did not participate in the HHS competition, and said that the hospital complies with a number of best practice safety standards for patients.

Pamela Rittenhouse, director of marketing at NFRMC, said that the hospital’s chief nursing officer and quality director said these best practices include explaining to patients that staff wash their hands to protect patients from infection, and turning on the light before administering a medication at night to ensure that they have the correct line.

Staff also appeals to “patient values,” Rittenhouse said, when they identify a patient by using two methods of identification. They tell a patient, “I’m asking you to verify your name and using bar-coding so that there’s no question you are receiving the blood ordered for you. Your safety is the most important part of the care we give,” Rittenhouse explained.

The goal of the HHS competition was to highlight the most effective reporting strategies of good and bad practices at hospitals throughout the nation as the government seeks to eventually roll out standardized practices. The Patient Safety Act of 2005 made it possible for health care safety organizations to share adverse events without fear of legal repercussions.

Allen said the reporting competition “gives us the opportunity to look at our systems and see what we can do to prevent things from happening,” said Allen.

Shands’ reporting system is “very user-friendly,” said Allen. “It’s effortless to enter information. You could do it from an iPad.”

Randy Harmatz, the chief quality officer for UF&Shands, added, “Quality and patient safety is job one here. It’s the major focus of what we do every day.”

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or

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