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Energy and Environment Directorate

Research Capabilities

Patient Safety Improvement

PNNL's patient safety improvement program brings unique capabilities and perspectives to the issues that surround patient safety and healthcare reform. PNNL has successfully implemented methods to analyze patient safety problems and develop solutions; has developed, implemented and assessed technologies to mitigate errors within very large, complex systems for industrial clients; and brings an impartial and balanced perspective to the evaluation of problems and proposed solutions.

Patient safety is a recognized top priority in the United States, in large part due the 1999 report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled To Err is Human. Our nation was shocked to learn that an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 people die each year in hospitals from preventable medical errors. When costs associated with lost income, disability and additional healthcare were factored into the assessment, the annual cost of these mistakes was estimated to be as high as $29 billion. It has become obvious that while the United States is renowned worldwide for providing quality healthcare, medical errors have become a national problem of epidemic proportions, a description used by the Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force (QuIC) in its report to the President. This report further reminds us that "the consequences of medical mistakes are often more severe than the consequences of mistakes in other industries—leading to death or disability rather than inconvenience on the part of consumers—underscoring the need for aggressive action in this area."

Both the IOM and QuIC reports suggest that system safety analysis and risk management experiences from high-risk industries such as the nuclear power, chemical and aerospace industries should be applied to healthcare to assist in improving patient safety. PNNL has the requisite experience and technologies to support the identification and implementation of the substantive changes needed in healthcare to materially improve patient safety.

Energy and Environment

Core Research Areas