At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we recently held our fourth annual Patient Safety Summit, a daylong gathering in which faculty and staff from across our health system share their work to reduce patient harm and foster a culture of safety. The event has quickly become a tradition, with more than 425 participants flocking annually to our East Baltimore campus to sample from a wide range of presentations and network with colleagues.

As I attended the summit, I was struck by how much our own internal patient safety movement has matured, and it gave me hope for the future of the larger patient safety effort.

When we held the first summit in 2010, the enthusiasm for patient safety was high, but the science was not always at the same level. While many of the poster presenters were excellent clinicians and staff who offered thoughtful suggestions on how to improve patient safety, their work was frequently weak on data, used simple methods and lacked theory.

This year’s summit featured 75 posters and 43 presentations, but the scope and quality of the science was breathtaking. Watch this video to hear highlights from this year’s poster presenters.

Posters were submitted from all corners of Johns Hopkins. The study designs were rigorous, the theory was mature, the data was high quality, and the inferences were well-supported. The presenters identified opportunities for improvement and outlined strategies to reduce harm.

One study showed that fewer than 10 percent of patients with a cardiac stent receive the recommended anticoagulation medication during surgery. This presentation and many others allowed us to identify new opportunities to reduce preventable harm. Others focused on wound healing, staff safety, infections, blood clots, patient engagement, patient satisfaction, and reducing waste in health care.

Patient safety has been a focus of health care institutions for over a decade, yet there is little evidence to show that patients are safer overall than they were at the start of the millennium. Patient harm continues unabated. A significant reason for this lack of improvement has been the lack of rigorous science in the study of patient safety.

At Johns Hopkins, we have embraced science. We took the same discipline we use in basic and clinical research and applied it to safety, and now the results are starting to pay off. We took a scientific approach to reducing bloodstream infections across the U.S. and in other countries, and we are using that sound science to reduce preventable harms across Johns Hopkins Medicine. What I've seen at the Patient Safety Summit gives hope to patients, to Hopkins, and to the world that preventable patient harm can be eliminated.

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