FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America's hospitals and the patients we serve.

Quality & Safety | Chip Kahn

FAH Celebrates 20th Anniversary of To Err Is Human

Health care has changed immensely in the 20 years since the Institute of Medicine published To Err Is Human – a groundbreaking effort that served as a threshold report for better understanding patient safety.

The message to hospitals and the medical community in the report was clear – action needed to be taken to prevent medical errors. It was time to reform patient care to ensure patient safety. During my tenure at FAH, I’ve strongly advocated for clinical and performance measurement to make patients safer and improve care. I believe this is vital because it is essential that above all else, hospitals “do no harm” and provide patients a safe environment for their diagnoses and treatment.  

In the wake of To Err Is Human, leaders of the AHA, AAMC and I developed the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA), a public-private multi-stakeholder collaboration to foster the use of clinical and performance measurement to improve the quality and safety of hospital care. The HQA also sought to provide objectivity for holding hospitals and caregivers accountable while creating the information to make care and safety transparent. Prior to the HQA, there had been little data available for the improvement, accountability and transparency of hospital care.

The National Quality Forum (NQF), which was also established in 1999, has since taken up the mission of HQA. It is now the organization that ensures the usefulness of quality and performance measures, which help hold providers accountable. We proudly join with NQF today as it works tirelessly to ensure patients are safer and receive better care through meaningful measurement and public reporting.

Since this movement started two decades ago, hospitals have achieved vast improvements in the quality of care and patient safety they provide. While quality improvement and patient safety is ever-evolving, it owes its beginnings to the release of To Err Is Human two decades ago.