Safety initiative targets ambulatory settings

Plan includes research, education, communication

When the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) in Englewood, CO, launched its patient safety initiative last fall, it was in October, one month before the well-known Institute of Medicine report on medical errors and patient safety issues.

"We felt that patient safety was going to be an emerging issue in health care and that we needed to be out-front, says William Jessee, MD, president and CEO. "We felt that we had something unique to contribute because our competence is in how an office runs in an ambulatory setting."

The MGMA initiative takes a four-pronged approach to patient safety: research, education, communication, and advocacy. The association is working with other organizations to develop a base of information about what the risks are and how physician practices can control them.

The education program aims to raise awareness of safety for medical groups by teaching practice administrators about safety and encouraging them to share information about good practices and where the risks might lie.

"The communication aspect is related to the educational objective but is more a matter of communication within and among practices about safety issues," Jessee says. In the advocacy arena, MGMA’s Washington, DC, office is working "to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease," he adds.

"Once the report came out, it shifted from being a health care professionals’ issue to being a public and political issue." The MGMA is working to make sure that whatever legislation is passed helps the safety issue instead of harming it, Jesse says.

In December, the MGMA teamed up with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) to improve patient safety. They are developing a suite of assessment tools and protocols for office-based practices that will be consistent with what is being used in inpatient settings.

The tools for office-base practices will be similar to the tool developed by the ISMP and AHA to identify, understand, and reduce medication errors by medical staff and hospital-based pharmacists.

"We want to piggyback on what they are doing in the hospital so that there will be consistency," Jessee says. "We’ll get a bigger bang from everybody’s buck from that."