Presidential Advisory Group Recommends National Patient Safety Team

The effort to remake patient safety in the United States took a monumental step forward on September 8, when the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its much-anticipated Report to the President: A Transformational Effort on Patient Safety. The recommendations have been informed by the ongoing work of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative-led National Patient Safety Board (NPSB) Advocacy Coalition, which has been actively engaged with the PCAST Working Group on Patient Safety as a key stakeholder.

This landmark report, the first significant national recommendations on patient safety since the publication of the Institute of Medicine's To Err Is Human more than 20 years ago, details the urgent need for federal attention to the growing problem of medical error and details four actions to address it. The first recommendation is to "Establish and Maintain Federal Leadership for the Improvement of Patient Safety as a National Priority," which includes creating a multidisciplinary National Patient Safety Team within the Department of Health and Human Services and the appointment of a patient safety coordinator reporting to the President. This recommendation aligns closely with the NPSB Advocacy Coalition's key priority and core legislative goals of creating an interdisciplinary, innovation-focused team at the national level and establishing a federal home for patient safety. The report also recommends advancing technological solutions to address patient safety and alleviate the burden on the frontlines, which also is a key component of the NPSB legislation. Importantly, the report calls for the elevation of the patient voice in healthcare safety, another key priority of the NPSB legislation.

PCAST's recommendations outline steps that President Biden can take independent of Congress to address patient safety, for which responsibility currently is scattered across a multitude of agencies, with no single point of oversight. These recommendations would ensure that the voice of patients and families will be heard.

The scope of the NPSB as detailed in the current legislative specs is more expansive than the role of the National Patient Safety Team recommended by PCAST, and thus the NPSB Coalition continues to work on addressing patient safety from a legislative angle. The Coalition is making progress in the House toward introduction of an updated bipartisan National Patient Safety Board Act this fall. These efforts are aimed at ensuring that patient safety becomes a national priority.

The announcement has garnered significant coverage in national media outlets, and with World Patent Safety Day having been observed on September 17, much-needed attention is being brought to the persistent problem of medical error and the urgency for action.

Co-chaired by Joe Kiani, chairman and CEO of Masimo, and Eric Horvitz, chief scientific officer at Microsoft, the PCAST Working Group on Patient Safety also includes members Dr. Donald Berwick, Dr. Lisa Cooper, Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, Christoper Hart, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, Julie Morath, Dr. Peter Pronovost, and Sue Sheridan.

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