Hospitals helping hospitals: Dr. Peter Pronovost on how peer-to-peer assessments can improve patient care

Accreditation surveys play an important role in healthcare, making sure all hospitals are compliant with standards that keep patients safe. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, advocates for another type of survey to help hospitals grow beyond simply meeting regulations.

Dr. Pronovost, the senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, wrote that hospitals should partner up and perform peer-to-peer assessments to pass on best practices and root out dangerous ones in a safe space.

"In peer-to-peer, a team of reviewers — executives, managers, front-line clinicians, researchers and others — visit another hospital for a structured, confidential and nonpunative review of its safety and quality efforts," he wrote. "While it would be foolhardy to show your flaws to regulators, in peer-to-peer assessments, it is encouraged. The goal is to create an environment of learning, not judging."

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He wrote that Johns Hopkins Hospital and Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital have assessed one another using a jointly developed survey, and it led to improvements at the bedside and at the administrative levels.

"Peer-to-peer review helps hospitals to discuss their problems in a safe environment, when it isn't a crisis," Dr. Pronovost wrote. "It's been said that change progresses at the speed of trust; trust among peer organizations can accelerate improvement that saves patients' lives."

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