David W. Bates, M.D., M.Sc., known internationally as an expert in patient safety, served as adviser for the November 2018 issue of Health Affairs, devoted to the topic of patient safety. The issue includes an essay coauthored by Dr. Bates that explores future directions in patient safety. He is Director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice and Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as well as the Medical Director of Clinical and Quality Analysis at Partners HealthCare. Dr. Bates has served in leadership positions for the World Health Organization’s Global Alliance for Patient Safety, the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, the Board of the American Medical Informatics Association and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
The Betsy Lehman Center: In Health Affairs, you and Dr. Hardeep Singh foresee a “Golden Era” in which patient safety is measured and improved “inside and outside the hospital, continuously, routinely.” How likely or imminent is that Golden Era?
Dr. Bates: It is technologically possible now. Several commercially available applications do a good job of measuring most of the main types of adverse events in inpatients—none is comprehensive, but all could be made so fairly easily. But none is required today. We have the strongest requirements today around hospital-acquired infections, which not coincidentally are the ones organizations do the best job with.