Hospital Trustees Taking a Look at Patient Safety
Hospitals increasingly are asking trustees "to go beyond the role of community boosters" and focus on patient safety, the Boston Globe reports. Hospital board trustees, who traditionally have used their positions to network and raise money, are beginning to turn their attention to flawed policies and procedures that lead to infections, prescription mistakes and other medical errors.
Physicians say greater involvement by board members could bring attention to a hospital's need for more resources and better technology.
However, they caution against board members getting too involved in areas that require medical expertise. Massachusetts hospital officials say it is becoming more common for board members to receive reports from doctors and administrators about medical errors, physician performance and other conditions that could pose risk to patients.
Board members say they hold doctors and administrators accountable for overall system performance but do not blame individuals for specific errors.
The Massachusetts Hospital Association, with financial help from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, is developing curriculum that is designed to train board members to be more vocal about their concerns. Classes are expected to include instruction on how to question executives about safety and how to request that errors be brought to the board's attention.
Donald Berwick, CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said, "Board seats in American hospitals have traditionally been relatively honorific positions." He added that it is time for board members, executives and physicians to "rise from slumber and view safety as an urgent matter."
Kenneth Peelle, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said, "We don't want [trustees] micromanaging, but it promotes an interaction between the board and the medical staff that we would like to see happening" (Rowland, Boston Globe, 3/5).