while he was there, he was infected with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and pneumonia. A day-and-a-half after he came home, he collapsed and never walked again. He lost 50 pounds and eventually got so weak he couldn’t sip water through a straw. A few months later, he was dead.

And if you asked his daughter what an acceptable rate of preventable injuries was, she would say zero, and she would be right. If you asked any of us what rate of injury we would accept for our own parents or our children or our spouses, we’d give the same answer. And that needs to be our goal. We must do no harm and harm no patient. It should not be reducing by 20 percent or 30 percent or 50 percent or 70 percent. It should be the goal of taking harm rates to zero.

We have to strive to reduce all types of harm, including harm to those who provide care. Today, a nurse in Maine is more likely to miss a day of work because of an injury than a logger is in Maine. So that’s an area that also needs more of our attention. In its 1999 report, the IOM sought to, and I quote, “break the cycle of inaction.” Today, we’ve broken that cycle.

We are moving forward, but we’re not going nearly fast enough. Every day, new treatments and therapies are introduced, bringing benefits for patients but also adding more to the complexity that breeds medical errors. If we want a safer health care system, we need to speed up the rate of improvement, and we need the leaders in this room to actually continue to lead the way.

I want to thank you for the hard work that you all have done so far, and for your courageous leadership over the past 12 years. We wouldn’t have gotten where we are today without the work that’s been done across the country. But we need to cross that next frontier, to commit ourselves to the goal of elimination of harm and complication. That, once again, lies in your hands.

We are poised to take a great leap toward the day when every American who walks into the doctor’s office or hospital receives the right care at the right time. I look forward to working with you as a great partner to make that happen. Thank you so much.

DR. FINEBERG: Secretary Sebelius, I just want you to know how much we value and appreciate your words, your inspirational goals, and your encouragement, and I want to assure you that we will do our best, every one of us, to work with you and to achieve those goals for America and for the American people. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Secretary.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement