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Lives Saved through Simple Changes

Public health advocates have long observed that public health and prevention often get short shrift in the competition for attention and funding. This is probably// because the significance of "statistical" lives saved vs. "actual" lives saved through expensive, high-tech medical care is often misunderstood. In actuality the same resources could help several more people through preventive interventions or "upstream" public health organizations.

With growing public concern over health care quality and affordability while the government and health care policymakers strive to regulate safer hospitals, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, led by Dr. Donald Berwick, has enrolled more than 3,000 hospitals to take part in its "100,000 Lives Campaign", over an 18-month period. The campaign is to establish better standards of care in an effort to improve health outcomes as well as make hospitals safer.

Some of the Puget Sound hospitals fully committed to the campaign are: Kindred Hospital, Madigan Army Medical Center, Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center, Seattle Cancer Center Alliance, Tacoma General, St. Joseph's Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and University of Washington Medical Center.

With Berwick's mantra of "Some is not a number, soon is not a time," a compelling platform and a sense of urgency has been inspired. As a result last month, the institute announced that nearly 122,300 lives has been saved through its unprecedented program has saved which otherwise might have been lost.

Berwick taught hospitals the method of developing "rapid-response" teams that would aid in the identification of heart attack symptoms before they worsen. In addition he showed how to better ensure beta-blockers and aspirin are actually ordered and delivered so that further heart muscle damage is prevented as well as , simple steps needed to prevent life-threatening surgical infection.

About a year and a half ago such practices were uncommon in hospitals. Today, the incorporation of these simple, powerful changes have lowered the chances of death in the hospital. There have been numerous collaborations with several organizations which are actively supporting Berwick's successful program. But this is only the beginning.

However the need of the hour if for everyone in health care to figure out how to expand the successful campaign, as well as these best practices, nationwide. With more attention hospitals can further adopt the implementation of newer and more effective evidence-based medicine practices to save more people lives and ensure more Americans know what to look for when making health care choices.

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