As a 30-year participant in and close observer of the evolution of quality improvement in our field, it was surprising to read David Burdas editorial, in which he made the strained analogy between Donald Berwick/Newt Gingrich and Otter and Bluto from Animal House (Healthcares sacred cows, Jan. 1, p. 19).
For decades we have known that the care provided every day in virtually every setting was unacceptably unsafe, unreliable and wasteful. While, over time, many tools were developed to right this wrong, there has been a void in national leadership to energize serious change. Berwick, along with just a handful of others (such as Dennis OLeary at the Joint Commission, Kenneth Kizer at the National Quality Forum and Steve Jencks at the CMS) have provided that needed spark in the past few years.
The 100,000 Lives Campaign mixed clinical science and ideas for change with a highly effective appeal to physicians, nurses, administrators and others to fulfill our professional obligations. It was brilliantly conceived. However, the lives were saved not by Don Berwick but by those local leaders and front-line teams who voluntarily agreed that enough was enoughit was time to finally do something meaningful about quality and safety.
If, as Burda contends, there are other strategies that will create this kind of change, I trust hell let us know. In the meantime, he should borrow a toga and party on!