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Pressing for better quality across healthcare

Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2011

The cardiac intensive care unit at Egleston children's hospital in Atlanta gleams and hums with a dazzling array of scientific wonders that breathe for tiny lungs and monitor every beat of an infant heart. But on a recent visit, Dr. Donald Berwick was especially pleased by something decidedly low-tech: a quiet zone where nurses can place medication orders without being interrupted, even during emergencies. Hospital leaders created the zone -- little more than a computer terminal in a corner of the room behind an orange sign on the floor that reads "Shh … We're in the MedZone" -- two years ago after noticing that distracted staff members were making dangerous mistakes when ordering medicine. The deceptively simple system, built on a principle used in aviation, cut medication errors by two-thirds, saving money and lives.