Johns Hopkins Medicine has long been a pioneer within the realm of hospital patient safety. They are still considered among the leading institutions, as U.S. News & World Report ranks them in the top five. Over the years they have established healthcare safety standards that emphasized principles including better communication and teamwork. The Tampa Bay Times reported that their facilities have recently been involved in nine different cases where preventable mistakes occurred, many of which have led to claims of medical malpractice. Is this renowned health system on the decline?
Three Recent Incidents
- At Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, it was alleged by federal authorities that the medical staff continued procedures in their operating rooms although the units were known to be insufficiently cleaned and disinfected
- At a pediatric burn unit in Baltimore, a high-ranking administrator allegedly proposed shutting down the facility because of a rash of mistakes that had left several children disabled or disfigured
- At their children's hospital located in St. Petersburg, a group of employees approached management regarding two heart surgeons that they felt were prone to serious medical mistakes
Failing to Adhere to Safety Principles
In recent years the health system has struggled to avoid highly publicized incidents. Sara Singer, a professor at Stanford University, explained that although Johns Hopkins has experienced “great fame”, there have certainly been some lapses in patient safety recently. Administrators have issued statements reminding the public that medical mistakes are something that occur within all healthcare organizations from time-to-time. One spokesman acknowledged that there were instances where “we failed to deliver the care our patients and their families deserve.”
Largest Medical Malpractice Award in Baltimore History
In one of our prior articles, we had reviewed a birth injury case against them where an extensive delay prior to executing a cesarean section was believed to have caused the baby to incur brain damage. The child faces life-long mental and physical conditions. Following a two-week trial, the jury returned a verdict coupled with an award for $55 million—the largest in Baltimore at the time.
Armstrong Institute of Patient Safety
C. Michael Armstrong was a Board of Trustees member for the organization that created the Armstrong Institute of Patient Safety by making a gift of $10 million. Since 2011, another $28 million in funding has also been provided to the effort. This program has since been functioning as a consultant to other medical facilities and a developer of safety practices and guidelines for the federal government. They offer three-day training programs for many health care systems that have been critical in improving safety.
Other Patient Safety Initiatives
Johns Hopkins was also at the forefront of many other projects such as follows:
- A checklist to follow when implanting venous catheters, which traditionally was one of the leading reasons for fatal hospital-acquired infections
- They implemented guidelines that led to requirements that medical staff routinely wash their hands and use sterile gloves, masks, gowns, and others
- The two aforementioned measures were shown to decrease infection rates by over 60% and in roughly one-year prevented an estimated 1,500 deaths
- Their Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program later led to standards that were adopted to reduce medication-related errors and prevent patients from falling