The American Hospital Association last week established a new award to recognize accomplishments in patient safety.
The move comes at a time when public awareness of patient-safety risks in hospitals is rapidly growing because of critical government reports on medical errors, almost daily headlines of patient-care mishaps and promises by state and federal regulators to better police the work of healthcare providers.
This is not the first time the AHA has tried to put a positive spin on an increasingly visible industry trend with a new award. For example, in 1993, when national healthcare reform was all the rage in Congress and the industry, the AHA created the Nova Awards, which recognize collaborative efforts to improve community health.
The McKesson Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the medical supply and information technology firm McKesson, is underwriting the yet-to-be-named award, which "honors leaders who are blazing new trails to improve quality and patient safety," AHA President Richard Davidson said in a written statement. McKesson will contribute $100,000 per year to the award program.
The AHA and the McKesson Foundation, which has a budget this year of $4.2 million, have been collaborating for some time on issues of patient safety. The new award is a "natural extension" of those efforts, said Mary Pittman, president of the AHA's Hospital Research and Educational Trust, a not-for-profit affiliate.
The winning hospital would receive $75,000 and the two runners-up would get $12,500 apiece to be used at their discretion, Pittman said.
"The more we can highlight the importance of progress in patient-safety practices, the better," said Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of the Leapfrog Group, a coalition of Fortune 500 companies encouraging more stringent patient-safety standards.
The AHA will begin accepting applications this fall, with the first award to be given in 2002.
"Here was an opportunity for our company to be able to draw attention to hospitals doing a really good job and providing leadership in (patient safety)," said Marcia Argyris, president of the San Francisco-based McKesson Foundation.
Other groups, however, have been recognizing industry efforts to improve patient care for years. In 1996, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations created the Ernest A. Codman Award to praise organizations that improve the quality of care using performance measures.
In 1994, the National Committee for Quality Health Care-a Washington-based, not-for-profit membership group that includes leaders from all healthcare sectors-established an award honoring hospitals or systems that have made significant strides in quality improvement. Modern Healthcare has co-sponsored the committee's National Quality Health Care Award since 1997.