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Henry Ford Health System's Bold Goal to Cut Harm in Half

Jim Molpus, for HealthLeaders Media, April 23, 2012

All hospitals have patient safety programs meant to reduce harm. Henry Ford Health System in Detroit took a more blunt approach in 2007: cut harm by 50%.

The board of the five-hospital health system—the 2011 recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality award—decided to launch a "No Harm" program under the guiding principle that "the highest priority of our quality work is to become a harmless organization." The system's leadership set a quantitative goal to reduce events of harm to patients by 50%. From 2008 to 2010, HFHS reduced system-wide harm events by 25%, and extended the program to 2013.


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The goal of 50% was not just arbitrary. It was meant to be a number big enough to be reachable but also create a sustaining momentum for the organization.

Having a system-wide goal creates a benchmark, and an expectation of staff members, says Jennifer Ritz, manager for quality improvement in surgical services and a member of the system's No Harm steering committee.

"I can tell you that 50% is a big goal, and there's a lot that goes into that calculation," Ritz says. "But I think what is so unique for us is that we go way beyond those specific metrics that we're measuring for harm reduction. We don't just do the metrics that are in the No Harm campaign. We take it further. Things snowball and we look at projects and we don't just say, ‘Okay, we're going to jump into this initiative because it will help us reduce harm and help us get to that end goal.' We look at prioritization and what is the most urgent area that we need to be focusing on right here and now to reduce the most harm."

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