print this page

At the Intersection between Patient-Centered Care and Medical Errors

December 03, 2013

Recently, Baystate Health sponsored a fundraising event for the Medically Induced Trauma Support Services (MITSS) in Boston, and a group of us had the privilege to represent Baystate at the event.  MITSS is a non-profit organization whose mission is To Support Healing and Restore Hope to patients, families, and clinicians whose lives have been impacted by medically induced trauma.  Medically induced trauma is what a patient or family experiences after an adverse event or unexpected outcome under the care of the medical system.  In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors in US Hospitals.  While we have come a long way since then, our healthcare system still inflicts unintended harm on patients.


Some of the harm we see is the result of poor communication and fragmented systems that were developed without the patient in mind.  Our US healthcare system, although working toward a more patient-centered model, remains provider-centric.  Ask any patient with a chronic condition and you will hear stories of poor coordination, confusing recommendations, and unclear treatment advice.  These issues plague a medical system that result not only in expensive care, but also in care that may actually harm patients.


The IOM defines patient-centered care as "care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, [and] ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”  Patient-centered care is also one of the overarching goals of health advocacy, in addition to safer medical systems, and greater patient involvement in healthcare delivery and design.  Care that is truly patient-centered cannot be achieved without active patient engagement at every level of care design and implementation.


I believe that until all patients have access to the care they need, we will not be patient-centered.  Until all patients know who is coordinating their care and whom to call for questions, we will not be patient-centered.  Until we eliminate "wrong patient" procedures and "wrong side" procedures, we will not be patient-centered.  Until we eliminate all diagnostic errors, we will not be patient-centered.  Until all patients may actively participate in shared decision making for their healthcare, we will not be patient-centered.


Although we were at the fundraising event to support MITSS, my hope is that someday MITSS may not need to exist at all.  To achieve this, however, we must change our system so that it is more patient-centered.  The most fundamental patient-centered thing we can do right now is to work to eliminate medical errors.  Please join the movement that brings us closer to this goal.  To learn more, click on the Institute on Medicine links "Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century" or β€œTo Err is Human.”


As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions at  We have joined the conversation on Twitter; find this newsletter and other great content @Baystate Health.