Hidden in Plain Sight: When Patient Risk Goes Undetected

May 16, 2024

“Probably the most dangerous place in the world for a human being is an American hospital,” says Ashish Jha of the Harvard School of Public Health. “Nothing we do in our lives puts us at such great risk for injury as being a patient in a hospital—not driving, not flying, not even being a pedestrian in Boston. Nothing else is close.”

Given that stark reality, Jha calls for change: “We’re not going to solve these problems without evidence, new knowledge, and new insights.”

Hospitals and healthcare systems strive to deliver exemplary patient care while navigating the complexities and associated risks of various procedures. How can chief executives, medical officers, and finance executives uncover riskier procedures and improve patient care outcomes?

New Evidence Drives New Insights

In today’s blog, I discuss how referent clinical data can be used to identify important variation and target opportunities to improve patient outcomes. Comparing a healthcare organization to external benchmarks leads to clinically actionable insights. Specifically, comparing physicians’ clinical practices to external practices gives an impartial standard for safer practices.

Healthcare systems that work with Preverity place their own organization’s clinical safety within the context of national benchmarks, allowing them to identify and target opportunities for improvement. Transforming this evidence and insight into actionable strategies can streamline physician oversight and hospital management, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

Benchmarking Changes Physician Behavior

It’s commonly accepted that doctors value professional autonomy, making it challenging to dictate specific actions or procedures for a given patient. However, doctors are competitive and intrinsically motivated to improve their performance. Our experience with leading providers demonstrates that individual doctors will change their behavior when shown that they are aberrant on measures related to unsafe practices when compared with like colleagues.

Benchmarking works because it shows where physician-related variation is unwarranted and increases patient risk. Improved measurement of variation sources disentangles “physician-related variation that is desirable from that which is unwarranted.”

Patient Safety Starts at the Top

Healthcare executives utilize independent reference data for many financial, operational, and strategic decisions. This application of external reference data supports systematic clinical risk evaluation.

Risk management requires a top-down interprofessional team, both in implementing policies and practices and executing them in day-to-day patient care–especially in addressing medical errors that have occurred. A coordinated team approach where everyone is empowered to express their concerns regardless of rank, open event evaluation, and independent data offer the best chance for successful risk mitigation. This interprofessional approach leads to enhanced patient care and fewer potentially catastrophic events. 

Preverity is Committed to Patient Safety

The biggest health systems often employ internal data for comparison. [For example, Northwell Health holds regular weekly Safety Calls across its ten maternity hospitals to “identify opportunities to prevent recurrent suboptimal outcomes and improve patient safety.”] We see massive variation within a hospital or health system. Then, we make it actionable by identifying the subset of providers with a targeted opportunity for improvement based on relevant benchmarks at the national, state, system, and facility levels.

Therefore, benchmarking on independent data analyzed by healthcare experts uncovers potential risks that can go undetected by even the largest systems.

Preverity has established national and regional benchmarks contributing to patient safety. Utilizing an independent source of clinical data allows for an unbiased view of procedures and practices across all specialties. By comparing these practices at national, regional, and local levels, Preverity detects aberrancies in the practice of medicine that are associated with complications and unwanted outcomes by comparing and exploiting the variation that exists by specialty.

These insights empower financial executives, chief medical officers, and risk managers to benchmark practices and pinpoint particular clinical behaviors that significantly impact patient health outcomes. Our partners confirm that national and regional benchmarks effectively surface outliers and facilitate difficult conversations. By applying standardized external data, health systems can:

    • Support their providers on their individual journey to improve care.
    • Benchmark providers against other facilities on risk metrics.
    • Pinpoint practices demonstrated to improve patient safety.
    • Support open dialogue among colleagues. 

I’ll close by quoting a visionary of patient safety, Lucien Leape:

“The single greatest impediment to error prevention in the medical industry is that we punish people for making mistakes.”

Preverity data insights spur conversations that surface potential risks before they become costly mistakes. Together, we can make healthcare safer. Contact me to learn how we can help you identify specific clinical behaviors that improve patient outcomes.

Kind Regards,
Gene Boerger, President and Chief Operating Officer

615-982-7076 | info@preverity.com