Moving Patient Safety Measurement into Action

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Sep 17, 2019
by Mirabelle Morah
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Moving Patient Safety Measurement into Action

Patient safety advocate Susan Edgman-Levitan speaks on the importance of patients’ perspective in health care Susan Edgman-Levitan speaking during the Salzburg Global program on Moving Measurement into Action: Designing Global Principles for Measuring Patient Safety

“We are absolutely committed to making the work that comes out of this seminar actionable and real,” said Susan Edgman-Levitan, the executive director of John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital, USA.

Earlier this month, Edgman-Levitan and other experts from across the globe gathered at Schloss Leopoldskron, the historic home of Salzburg Global Seminar, to take part in Moving Measurement into Action: Designing Global Principles for Measuring Patient Safety.

The program happened in cooperation with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a body which Edgman-Levitan belongs to as a senior fellow. After five days of discussion, presentations, and group work, participants helped shape new global principles for measuring patient safety. Edgman-Levitan says every participant is “absolutely committed” to making the work that comes out of the program actionable and real.

“We never came into this thinking we were just going to sit around for five days and talk and have a good time and play foosball,” Edgman-Levitan said. “We really came into this to make a difference and to have an impact, and I think the hard work is before us. But I think we've built a very, very strong foundation here and I'm very excited about seeing how this all plays out in different settings, in different countries, and with different international organizations.”

During last month’s program, participants considered what the role of the patient would be when designing global principles for measuring patient safety. As an advocate for understanding the perspective of patients in patients’ health care, Edgman-Levitan had a lot to share on the matter.

“Patients have a view of safety that no one else has. I think patients are the most astute observers of what our health care system is really like…” said Edgman-Levitan. “I think without getting their opinions and evaluations of how we're delivering care that we just engage in magical thinking about what a good job we're doing… I think that when managers and clinicians start partnering actively with patients to redesign or improve care, they very quickly realize that patients know a lot more about their operation than they do...

“If you put managers and clinicians in a room to redesign something, they will often come up with the most expensive, complicated, and wrong solution possible that costs a lot of money. And when you talk to patients and get their input, they typically come up with very elegant easy-to-implement, and most importantly, effective solutions to the problems that they're having because they know what is going to work for them… We can sometimes figure out the technical sides of that, but we would have never understood that if it weren't for their role in the design process.”

Edgman-Levitan is no stranger to Schloss Leopoldskron and Salzburg Global Seminar. The latest program marked her third visit. She previously attended health programs in 1998 and 2010. So, how does this program compare?

“I think this has been an amazing seminar...” said Edgman-Levitan. “[Participants are] very engaged in the discussions and very respectful of one another, willing to raise challenging issues in a way that I think really is illustrative of the heart of what the Salzburg Seminar mission is, where we can have healthy and incisive debate in a respectful way… I know I personally have met many people here that I have either read their work, I've looked at their websites, I've heard of them, and now I will have no hesitation to pick up the phone and call them and say, 'Hey, can we do something together?' And I think that's the power of the seminar.”


The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Moving Measurement into Action: Designing Global Principles for Measuring Patient Safety, is part of the Health and Health Care Innovation multi-year series. The program is being held in partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This program has been supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.