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Solutions for Patient Safety

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March 21, 2011
Columbus, OH

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you Senator Brown for those very kind words. As the health care law moved through the Senate last year, you were there to help make sure it included the strong consumer protections and important new benefits that Americans are already benefiting from today. And you insisted that the final law include provisions to improve the quality of care for all patients.

I grew up in Cincinnati, but when my father was Governor, I got to know Columbus well and I am glad to be back.

I want to thank Dr. Allen and Nationwide Children’s Hospital for welcoming us so warmly here today, as well as George Barrett, Dr. Richard Brilli, and Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff for their leadership and efforts in making Ohio a model for hospitals and doctors across the country.

We have just completed a tour and a discussion with the wonderful staff here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and I want to thank them for sharing their stories with me. This is a remarkable institution.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to recognize everyone here today who played a role in the quality improvements that have taken root across the region.

When you look at a big picture view of our health care system, the challenges can often seem very daunting.

But we know that a better health care system is possible, because it exists. It is thriving in certain communities and doctor’s offices, various health centers and hospitals scattered around the country.

And your success here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and 24 others throughout the state is a shining example.

Congratulations.

I’m often asked a very simple question: Why did Congress pass the health care law?

In many ways, the answer is just as simple. We want to help Americans get healthy, stay healthy, and live long productive lives. And the only way we’re going to get there is with the talents and commitment of doctors and hospital leaders like the ones with me today. We owe it to the rest of the nation to provide them with the tools they need to practice medicine that is safe, effective and affordable.

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released its first-ever National Quality Strategy. This ground-breaking roadmap for improving quality and safety nationwide was shaped by extensive public input and built on best practices from around the nation.

Over the last two years, I’ve visited neighborhoods that are improving health by serving healthier school lunches. I’ve met with employers who are bringing down health costs with onsite health clinics. And I’ve toured hospitals that are showing that it’s possible to improve patient outcomes.

That’s why we are here -- to see how you’ve done it and to help your best ideas spread.

Historically, best practices have been slow to reach across our large and fragmented health care system. And in the past, our government has not actively stepped up to help.

But that’s changing. Under President Obama, we’re committed to promoting high-quality health care throughout the country.

To do that, we hired Dr. Don Berwick, a pediatrician and one of the country’s most respected health care quality experts, to run Medicare and Medicaid.

He came to Columbus to join me for a briefing from the leaders of the Solutions for Patient Safety coalition earlier today.

One year ago this week, we gave Dr. Berwick a great platform to build on when the president signed the Affordable Care Act.

The law calls for a series of payment and delivery system reforms. And it created a new, first-of-its-kind Innovation Center that will test new models for delivering higher-quality, lower-cost care like the ones here in Ohio. And, just as important, it will allow us to bring the ideas that work to scale across the country.

And I know that approach is at the very heart of your success right here. During today’s briefing, Dr. Berwick and I were both impressed by your collaboration across traditional boundaries and the success you’ve had replicating innovative approaches from organization to organization.

That’s important, because as you’ve shown, no one can achieve $13 million in health care savings alone. It requires effective partnerships to achieve 900 fewer patient days spent in the hospital and nearly 3,600 fewer adverse drug events and infections in children.

It demands engagement from everyone involved and a commitment to better health and better care.

We have a lot of hard work still to do across the country. Yet, we’re seeing progress: greater transparency, increased safety, a change of priorities and new attention to high-quality care.

Thank you for leading the way.