Poor Boeing. Well, not really. After all, they are worth a gazillion dollars. But we can all feel a little bit of their pain when a much-hyped event goes south fast.
Boeing's Dreamliner is by all accounts a revolutionary aerodynamic design. Made of lightweight materials, its fuel efficiency is boosted to the point where it can fly nonstop to virtually anywhere in the world, which is a big cost-efficient leg up — or wing up — if you aspire to being a big international airline company.
Of course, as we all know, there was a slight problem. On two occasions, smoke spewed from the airliner, which was worrisome. I'm sure all of us made mental notes to avoid flying on the Dreamliner for a while, or possibly forever. It was soon grounded internationally, shortly after being launched and even before the glitzy rollout videos were shelved.
Boeing, of course, expected that something would go wrong. Just crossing your fingers isn't a backup plan. A new aircraft design isn't introduced every day. As stock prices fell, hordes of engineers descended on the problem, which was eventually traced to the plane's lithium batteries.
Most of you have had your own taste of fear with complex system startups, but many of our problem spots are low-tech and commonplace. Take, for example, patient falls. We've all been there. On the ground, I mean. For those of us who live in cold, icy climes, every trip outdoors can be an ambulatory endurance test.
The problem of patient falls is as old as the concept of the hospital itself. Today, safety experts estimate that between 700,000 and 1 million patients fall in hospitals each year, and they often cause injuries and sometimes even death, as well as additional costs. The Joint Commission reports that the average increase in operational costs for a serious fall-related injury is more than $13,000, and the patient's length of stay increases by an average of 6.27 days.
What sounds deceptively like a straightforward problem has proven to be deceptively complex. But hospitals — both small and large — are focusing energy on prevention strategies through various patient-safety programs and hospital engagement networks. HEN participants focus on 10 patient-safety priorities set by the CMS Partnership for Patients campaign.
The HEN project sets a high bar: Reduce patient harm by 40 percent and readmissions by 20 percent by the end of 2013. And in case you think it can't be done, well it can and we'll show you how. In addition to this cover story on preventing patient falls, we'll be featuring 20 video patient-safety stories highlighting hospitals and hospital associations that are part of the Health Research & Educational Trust HEN starting this month in H&HN Daily, which if you are not already a subscriber, you can access from our website.
You may not have scads of safety engineers to throw at a patient safety problem, but with a little old-fashioned detective work and homegrown know-how, you, too, will start to love run charts.
And now for a little shameless self-promotion. Hospitals & Health Networks was named Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors. The award recognizes overall excellence and it's the third time H&HN has received this designation. Congrats to all of the talented, dedicated staff members who keep our quality standards consistently high.
— You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.