July/August 2000

Task Force Focuses on Patient Safety


While the complex nature of modern health care makes quality outcomes possible, it also creates a high risk environment that holds the potential for mistakes that impact patient care. To help market-based organizations minimize the potential for errors and improve the quality of patient care, Catholic Health Initiatives has formed a national Patient Safety Task Force. The task force, chaired by Harold Ray, MD, chief medical officer for Catholic Health Initiatives, includes representation from multiple disciplines within the organization. "Health care quality really begins with patient safety," said Margaret Gavigan, vice president of clinical operations for Catholic Health Initiatives. "The goal of the task force is to help market-based organizations reduce medical errors to the greatest extent possible." The task force’s work plan includes:
  • Reviewing existing patient safety resources, such as Catholic Health Initiatives’ risk management database, to ensure that they are as useful as possible.
  • Helping leaders throughout the organization understand all of the opportunities there are to improve patient safety. "Patient safety is a broad area that goes far beyond medication errors," said Rick Lopes, MD, vice president of medical operations. "It includes fall prevention, reporting incidents to patients’ families, responding to consumer concerns and much more."
  • Evaluating new methods and technology that can reduce medical errors.
  • Partnering with other organizations that can help Catholic Health Initiatives understand consumer expectations and continuously improve patient safety.
"We want to segment the overall issue of patient safety into manageable components so that it won’t seem overwhelming or irrelevant to our market-based organizations," said Lopes. "We’re looking at short-term goals as well as long-term objectives that could involve major changes to our environments of care." Gavigan also said that reduction of medical errors involves taking a fresh look at the role patient safety plays in Catholic Health Initiatives’ culture. "We have to ensure that our organization accepts responsibility for the risks inherent in providing health care and maintains a culture in which people are comfortable reporting safety issues," she said. The idea for the task force emerged from a recent session of "Leadership That Shapes the Future," a week-long retreat that is part of Catholic Health Initiatives’ leadership development program. Retreat participants develop ideas for projects that are critical to the success of Catholic Health Initiatives. Gavigan and Lopes, along with Jim Cullen, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md., and Paul Neumann, senior vice president and general counsel, saw this as important work for Catholic Health Initiatives and created an action plan, which led to the formation of the task force. The first priority of the task force will be to address medication safety issues. "Medication errors and adverse drug events are usually high on any health care organization’s list of medical errors. Catholic Health Initiatives wants to improve in this area," said Gavigan. "It’s an excellent place to start on this quality improvement initiative." Patient Safety Task Force Members Catholic Health Initiatives’ national Patient Safety Task Force is a multidisciplinary team that includes the following members:
  • Peter Bernard, President and Chief Executive Officer, CARITAS Health Services, Louisville, Ky.
  • Jim Cullen, President and Chief Executive Officer, St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, Md.
  • Richard Duncan, Vice President, Information Technology
  • Margaret Gavigan, RN, Vice President, Clinical Operations
  • George Hill, RPh, Manager, Pharmacy
  • Debbi Honey, RN, Vice President, Clinical Operations
  • Bobbie Ingram, RN, Chief Nursing Officer
  • Nancy Lima, RN, Director, Performance Improvement
  • Rick Lopes, MD, Vice President, Medical Operations
  • Jeanie Mamula, RN, Director, Quality and Accreditation, Centura Health, Denver, Colo.
  • Mitch Melfi, Esq., Chief Risk Officer
  • Bill Mitchell, MD, Vice President, Medical Informatics and Medical Operations
  • Katie Monarch, Esq., Associate Counsel
  • Terry O’Rourke, MD, Board Member, Centura Health, Denver, Colo.
  • Harold Ray, MD, Chief Medical Officer
  • Joyce Ross, Senior Vice President, Communications
  • Colleen Scanlon, RN, JD, Senior Vice President, Advocacy
  • Greg Semerdjian, MD, Vice President, Medical and Clinical Operations
  • Barry Silbaugh, MD, Vice President, Medical Operations