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Hospitalists as Emerging Leaders in Patient Safety: Targeting a Few to Affect Many

Flanders, Scott A. MD; Kaufman, Samuel R. MA; Saint, Sanjay MD, MPH

Journal of Patient Safety: June 2005 - Volume 1 - Issue 2 - p 78-82
Original Article

Thousands of Americans die each years as a result of medical errors. These errors lead to increased economic costs and dissatisfaction among patients and healthcare providers. Errors could be reduced if physicians and healthcare institutions were better able to identify best practices in care processes, and, more important, translate effective processes into practice. Efforts to address these important issues should ideally be compatible with changes in the organization, financing, and delivery of hospital care that began a decade ago. One of the most important changes has been the emergence of hospitalists as providers of inpatient care. As a result, an increasingly large number of hospitalized patients are cared for by a relatively small cadre of physicians, providing a unique opportunity to disseminate effective safety practices broadly by targeting an influential group of physicians.

We propose a consortium of nine regional hospitalist programs representing a diverse group of healthcare institutions that will marry patient safety enhancement with hospital medicine. The Hospitalists as Emerging Leaders in Patient Safety (HELPS) Consortium of Southeastern Michigan, a first-of-its-kind program, is designed to identify proven patient safety practices and then facilitate widespread dissemination of those practices. The HELPS Consortium will also aid participating institutions in evaluating outcomes after implementation of a targeted patient safety practice, thereby allowing rapid cycle improvement while identifying factors associated with success. The use of hospitalists to enhance patient safety will likely overcome several of the traditional barriers that impede efforts at improving the quality of inpatient care. The HELPS Consortium is well positioned to enhance the care of a large number of patients by targeting just a few hospitalists.

From the *Hospitalist Program, University of Michigan Division of General Medicine; †Division of General Medicine, University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine; ‡VA/UM Patient Safety Enhancement Program; and §Center for Practice Management and Outcomes Research, Ann Arbor VA Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Correspondence: Scott A. Flanders, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Taubman Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Room 3119F, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0376 (e-mail:

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