COVID Reveals What We’ve Known for 20+ years: Our Nation Can’t Keep Patients Safe

It took a pandemic to demonstrate vividly that although our nation has at least 17 associations, agencies, organizations, and consumer groups responsible for keeping healthcare patients and workers safe, we do a bad job. Although it's documented that over 180,000 patients die each year from preventable medical errors, the holes in the safety net were made visible by a virus during a crisis.

The Swerve initiative was created months ago to protect patients and healthcare workers by advancing new directions to add urgency and spur action. Three conversations were held with 75 national academic, delivery system, policy and advocacy leaders to shape a national strategy for coordination, regulation, and transparency. But we didn't imagine the urgency that COVID-19 would add to our efforts. Now we move from talk to action shaped by two virtual conversations held in April with Action Groups made up of 'superstars' from our three conversations.

Actual examples from Asia and other countries, and our own pandemic experts, shouted for extreme emergency preparedness measures as early as December, but instead we dawdled and basic PPEs, tests, ventilators, and guidelines are sorely lacking. Patients and workers have died as a result of a spectacular lack of coordination and inability to marshal resources (human and material) in a disaster.

With the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation's Wendy Everett as a key partner, Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative's next phase focuses on creating a body that can assure national coordination for patient and worker safety with the speed and urgency it deserves. The agenda is ambitious; the need justifies. 

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