A quick update on last week's column in which a number of readers took issue with the idea that people of different generations bring distinct expectations to their jobs and that can lead to tension. As you'll recall, one e-mailer said my reports on workplace generation gaps were "making a mountain out of a molehill," and several others suggested that whatever conflicts arise among hospital staff are just run-of-the-mill co-worker friction, seldom if ever age-related.

At the end of last week's piece, I invited everyone to join in the conversation, and asked whether you are aware of generational tension in the workplace or whether you agree that there's no such thing. To my surprise, so far the replies lean heavily toward the "no generation gap" view. I'll report back soon on how this debate plays out, but there's still time to add your thoughts. Just e-mail me at bsantamour@healthforum.com.

Kent Hospital Takes on Medical Mistakes

Kent Hospital in Warwick, R.I., has become a poster child for patient safety—literally. At the recent National Patient Safety Foundation Congress, Anna Pilkington, Kent's data base coordinator of risk management and safety, presented a poster display illustrating the hospital's energetic embrace of IT to combat errors.

Between 2006 and 2009, a series of serious medical mistakes occurred at Kent, including wrong-site surgeries and one case of miscommunication among clinicians that led to a high-profile death. The Rhode Island Department of Health ordered the hospital to take several steps to improve safety, including purchasing software to track and report events. Sandra Coletta, an ardent safety advocate, had become Kent's president and CEO in 1998, and she signed it up to participate in an initiative led by the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. Kent and the other 12 hospitals in the initiative implemented the Medical Event Reporting System (secure link) technology with GE Healthcare.

The old paper-based reporting was cumbersome and the reports were hard to disseminate throughout the organization—especially to leadership. With MERS, Kent staff can, as the NPSF poster noted, "report errors and near-miss events easily, immediately and consistently. Every event is available to leaders, and data analysis shows where risk can be minimized to avoid future safety events."

MERS swiftly pinpointed high-risk processes, including mislabeled lab specimens and incorrect radiology orders. The system revealed that the most common reports were related to medications, so reports were customized to allow the pharmacy to understand when, why and where medication errors occur.

The ease and convenience of the system led to a 150 percent increase in error reporting in the first seven months of its implementation. Safety incidents often involve more than one department, and Pilkington pointed out that MERS lets managers from multiple departments access the information, "connect the dots and allow collaboration" across the organization.

The medical staff, which had seldom reported errors or near-misses in the past, no longer balk. "We can now assure physicians that we will 'close the loop' on reviews, root-cause analysis and action steps," according to a poster quote from Paul F. McKinney, assistant chief medical officer.

A dashboard shows managers and others that a task has been completed, and the system produces striking charts and other graphics to make the data visually engaging and easy to grasp for staff, executives and board members.

As part of the GE patient safety organization accredited by AHRQ and HHS, Kent Hospital will be able to leverage data from within the system, statewide and nationally.