State Health Department, Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Convene Conference on Patient Safety

Experts Focus on Strengthening Hospital Policies and Procedures to Ensure Patient Safety
State Awards Two New York Hospitals $200,000 Each for Patient Safety Initiatives

Albany, January 24, 2002 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., Gregg Meyer, M.D., Director of the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and other healthcare experts today opened a two-day conference on patient safety initiatives aimed at reducing medical errors. As part of the conference, Dr. Novello awarded two New York Hospitals grant awards totaling $200,000 each for their advancement of patient safety and quality assurance initiatives.

"Governor Pataki has made access to quality, safe health care a priority in New York State. New York has the finest health care system in the nation. We have the best hospitals, doctors, and health care workers," Dr. Novello said. "This conference will help to build on our commitment to make health care more accessible and to significantly reduce medical errors. I want to thank AHRQ for their support and collaboration working with hospitals to find innovative ways to improve the health care New Yorkers receive by reducing the number of medical errors."

Dr. Meyer said, "The public wants to know that its health care is safe, and we have invested in research to inform clinicians, hospital leaders, and policy makers about the practices that have been proven to further patient safety, as well as a number of other very promisingmeasures that we will evaluate. Information on patient safety can be used by those who provide care as well as by those who receive it. It is a responsibility we all share, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is privileged to sponsor and conduct research to discover the causes of medical errors and the most effective ways to reduce them."

As part of the conference, entitled: Working Together: How Hospitals Can Ensure Patient Safety, Dr. Novello announced the creation of the New York State Hospital Patient Safety Awards Program. The program will identify and publicly recognize those hospitals that have developed innovative measures to reduce medical errors and strengthen safeguards for patients.

Two hospitals were presented with the inaugural New York State Department of Health 2001 Hospital Patient Safety Awards and grants totaling $200,000 each for their innovative measures to implement patient safety initiatives. The award-winning hospitals will continue working with the Department to develop and promote ways to reduce medical errors.

This year's award-winning hospitals are Ellis Hospital (more than 200 certified beds) in Schenectady and The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City (Less than 200 certified beds).

Ellis Hospital was recognized for its efforts to reduce the risk of dangerous blood clots from forming in hospitalized patients. A comprehensive risk factor assessment and treatment protocol was established to identify and treat patients at risk for this complication. This assessment is now part of the hospital's admission process and is recorded in each patient's chart and care plan during their hospital stay. Since instituting this new screening process, there has been a significant decrease in the number of hospital-acquired deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) occurring in patients.

Robert E. Smanik, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ellis Hospital, said, "The State's incident reporting program is a valued tool at Ellis Hospital as we continually strive to improve the already outstanding care we provide. This award validates Ellis' longstanding commitment to patient safety and quality care."

The Hospital for Special Surgery was recognized by the Department for its advancement of a new program to improve the medication use process. This initiative established hospital protocols to ensure legibility of medication orders, which has resulted in a 95 percent decline in the number of illegible orders since November 2000.

John Reynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Hospital for Special Surgery, said, "We are very pleased to receive this important award. Our tradition of continuously seeking to improve the quality of medical care provided to our patients has enabled us to develop many innovative approaches to ensure patient safety. We look forward to working with the Department of Health to advance these important initiatives."

One of the priorities of the conference is to bring hospital representatives together to share their experiences and promote the development and implementation of patient safety initiatives. In addition to the award-winning hospitals, seven other New York hospitals were recognized for their work to establish patient safety programs, including:

  • Albany Medical Center, Albany - Developed a comprehensive automated data collection system to identify, monitor and track the distribution of medications to patients. The database helps pharmacists cross check the possibility of adverse reactions in patients prescribed multiple drugs at once;
  • Mercy Medical Center, Rockville Center - Enhanced policies to prevent medication errors from occurring, including the development of a universal flow chart to track drug distribution to patients;
  • New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York City - Strengthened policies related to the assessment of patients admitted to the emergency department for acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks);
  • North Shore University Hospital, Forest Hills - Enhanced protocols for administering antibiotics to prevent infection in patients immediately following surgical procedures;
  • Park Ridge Hospital, Rochester - Strengthened policies related to the tracking and dispensing of medications to patients to prevent errors from occurring;
  • The Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York City - Developed comprehensive policies to identify the correct area of surgery on patients to help prevent wrong-site surgeries from occurring; and
  • Wyckoff Medical Center, Brooklyn - Strengthened policies related to the tracking and dispensing of medications to patients to prevent errors from occurring.

The conference includes a series of breakout sessions and seminars on such topics as national patient safety standards; quality improvement initiatives; best practices to address and reduce the chance of medical and medication errors from occurring; and the consumer perspective on health care quality and safety. For additional information about the conference please visit:

"The hospitals participating in this year's conference are clearly demonstrating an outstanding commitment to protecting patients in their care. Together we will continue to strengthen New York's health care system by enhancing safeguards and protocols to ensure patient safety, as well as foster increased public confidence in New York's hospitals," Dr. Novello concluded.

1/24/02 – 10 OPA