National Health Reform is Good For Massachusetts: Care Quality and Patient Safety

Health Care For All’s Consumer Health Quality Council has been working for 3 ½ years to bring attention to issues around health care quality and patient safety. National health reform is good for Massachusetts because it will allow us to make progress on the quality and safety fronts.

The most powerful tool that the Consumer Council has employed to get the attention of policymakers, health care providers, the media and the general public has been the telling of the members’ stories about what brought them to the Consumer Council. Many of these stories relate to instances of medical error and/or infection that took the lives or seriously impacted the health of Council members or people they cared for. Each of these stories has unique aspects that bring attention to the issue of health care quality and may speak to different individuals in different ways. However, one aspect cuts across most of the stories: issues relating to communication difficulties between providers, or between providers and patients/family members.

In Massachusetts, we are now moving toward public reporting of both infections and serious reportable events (SREs) as well as nonpayment for care needed following preventable infections and preventable SREs. These represent initial steps toward reducing infections and errors, though more work is certainly needed in both of those areas.

National reform will start to move Massachusetts and the nation toward addressing some of the communication issues that so many of us have experienced. Two examples of this: national reform would encourage the use of shared decision making through which patients and providers together come to decisions about care based on a full understanding of risks and benefits as well as patient preferences, values and lifestyle; national reform contains a number of initiatives to improve transitions of care when patients move from one care setting to another, an area in which patient/family input, as well as coordination among doctors, is crucial.

Many of those in the quality improvement world like to talk about making systems more “patient and family centered.” This is a goal that we all share but that can only be reached through meaningful changes to the current system, including changes that improve communication about, and coordination of, each patient’s care. National reform takes important steps towards this goal and will change care for the better for residents of Massachusetts and beyond.
-Deb Wachenheim

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