Proceedings from the Quality Colloquium At Harvard University


October / December 2004

Proceedings from the Quality Colloquium At Harvard University


It has been five years since the release of the first Institute of Medicine Report on medical errors, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, and interest in patient safety and quality healthcare continues to grow. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality currently devotes significant resources to research and dissemination of information on patient safety issues. Additionally, Newt Gingrich, former congressman and current head of the Center for Health Transformation, is on a crusade to improve healthcare. Working with former adversaries such as Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, he is promoting the use of electronic medical records to reduce waste while improving quality.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson appointed David Brailer, MD, to be the nation’s first National Health Information Technology Coordinator. Dr. Brailer is leading the effort to widely deploy clinical information technology over a 10-year period to enhance patient safety. Dr. Brailer is recognized as a leader in the strategy and financing of quality and efficiency in healthcare, with a particular emphasis on health information technology and health systems management.

ABQAURP, a non-profit organization that board-certifies professionals in healthcare quality management and patient safety (see pages 46-47), continues to expand its offering of online courses in patient safety targeted at both clinicians and non-clinicians ( In support of building a culture of patient safety within provider organizations, these courses are an effective introduction to patient safety issues.

Again in 2004, ABQAURP cosponsored The Quality Colloquium at Harvard University, an executive conference focused specifically on patient safety issues. Held in Memorial Hall on the university’s grounds in Cambridge, Mass., more than 300 healthcare executives, clinicians, and patient care staff gathered to learn from internationally known patient safety experts. Colloquium co-chairs included Molly Joel Coye, MD, MPH, founder and president, Health Technology Center; John K. Iglehart, editor, Health Affairs and national editor of the New England Journal of Medicine; Peggy E. O’Kane, president, National Committee for Quality Assurance; David J. Shulkin, MD, chief medical officer, Temple University Hospital; and Carolyn Pexton, director of communications, GE Healthcare Performance Solutions.

This issue of Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare includes a first installment of proceedings from the 2004 conference. Written by the presenters, the articles capture key points of each presentation. In “Patient Safety: Ethical Considerations in Policy Development,” Nancy Berlinger, PhD, of the Hastings Center, an independent nonpartisan bioethics research institute, reviews the results of several major multidisciplinary research projects on patient safety and quality improvement conducted by the Center. In particular, Dr. Berlinger’s article focuses on ethical issues in the aftermath of medical injury.

John Lester and Daniel Hoch, MD, both from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explore the role of expert patients, community “healers,” and others who make up a network of individuals who care for patients in their article “How Online Patient Networks Can Enhance Quality and Reduce Errors.” In addition, they address the challenge presented to treating physicians who must accept this reality. Their article is co-authored by Stephanie Prady and Yolanda Finegan.

Alice G. Gosfield, JD, a nationally known expert in health law, reviews the growing area of pay for performance in her article, “P4P Contracting: Bold Leaps or Baby Steps?” In addition, Gosfield offers five essential principles to achieve a positive change in healthcare quality.

These four articles capture only a small part of the knowledge exchanged at the end of August at Harvard. There will be more proceedings in the next and future issues of this journal. For now, learn and enjoy the richness of the next few pages.

Proceedings from the Quality Colloquium at Harvard University:
Patient Safety: Ethical Considerations in Policy Development

How Online Patient Networks Can Enhance Quality and Reduce Errors

P4P Contracting: Bold Leaps or Baby Steps?