A Decade of Preventing Harm

Keith F. Woeltje, Lisa K. Olenski, Melodie Donatelli, Amy Hunter, Denise Murphy, Bruce L. Hall, Wm Claiborne Dunagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Medical errors are a significant source of morbidity and mortality, and while focused efforts to prevent harm have been made, sustaining reductions across multiple categories of patient harm remains a challenge. In 2008 BJC HealthCare initiated a systemwide program to eliminate all major causes of preventable harm and mortality over a five-year period with a goal of sustaining these reductions over the subsequent five years. Methods: Areas of focus included pressure ulcers, adverse drug events, falls with injury, health care–associated infections, and venous thromboembolism. Initial efforts involved building system-level multidisciplinary teams, utilizing standardized project management methods, and establishing standard surveillance methods. Evidence-based interventions were deployed across the system; core standards were established while allowing for flexibility in local implementation. Improvements were tracked using actual numbers of events rather than rates to increase meaning and interpretability by patients and frontline staff. Results: Over the course of the five-year intervention period, total harm events were reduced by 51.6% (10,371 events in 2009 to 5,018 events in 2012). Continued improvement efforts over the subsequent five years led to additional harm reduction (2,605 events in 2017; a 74.9% reduction since 2009). Conclusion: A combination of project management discipline, rigorous surveillance, and focused interventions, along with system-level support of local hospital improvement efforts, led to dramatic reductions in preventable harm and long-term sustainment of progress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-486
Number of pages7
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


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