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Safety First

Moore Foundation Awards BIDMC $5.4 Million to Address Preventable Harm in the ICU


Kenneth Sands

The maxim to “first, do no harm” has been an underlying ethical concept in medicine since ancient times, but more recently the phrase has taken on new meaning with a modern-day, worldwide effort to improve patient safety. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s renowned leadership in this area, predicated on its 2007 publicly asserted goal to eliminate all preventable harm, has now received a major boost with a $5.4 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The foundation’s generous support will launch a unique initiative to address all kinds of harm in the intensive care unit (ICU), including the loss of dignity and respect, through information technology and systems science along with methods to more fully involve patients and their families in decision-making.

“Beth Israel Deaconess has a long and distinguished history in patient and family engagement,” says Paul Gray, interim president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and member of its Board of Trustees since 2008. “This commitment, coupled with the medical center’s nationally recognized innovations in technology, aligns with our Patient Care Program and the vision of our founders.” With this new grant, BIDMC will join only three other hospitals nationwide in the Moore Foundation’s ICU Consortium, a group that will examine how to redesign the health care system to eliminate the burden of preventable harm and unnecessary costs in this complex critical care setting.

Led by Kenneth Sands, M.D., M.P.H., chief quality officer at BIDMC, and Daniel Talmor, M.D., acting chair of the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at BIDMC, the new 30-month project will create a host of innovations designed to make clinicians better at identifying and managing safety risks, and to build engagement between clinicians, patients, and families. For example, the project sees an opportunity to improve upon the currently popular trend to improve safety through the use of checklists. “While checklists may be spectacularly effective in improving a single, specific process, when scaled to try to prevent all harms they may actually cause harm by overwhelming providers,” says Sands. “We want to give our physicians and nurses the most effective tools so they can get the right information for the decisions immediately at hand for each patient.” A key component of the project is to develop an interface that will provide clinicians with patient-specific risk data in real time.

Knowing that the provision of appropriate and respectful care for ICU patients also requires a full understanding of their wishes regarding health care decisions, a separate interface that relies on easy-to-understand language will also facilitate patient–clinician commu-nication. “These innovations will enable open, real-time discussions between care providers, patients, and family members in an environ-ment where, due to its complexity, this type of information has traditionally been available only to providers,” says Talmor. “We are so grateful to the Moore Foundation for partnering with us to more fully leverage the patient/family role in achieving true transformation in health care quality and safety.”

Contact Information

Office of Development
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue (BR)
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 667-7330
(617) 667-7340 (fax)