New tools aim to safeguard patients from harm during healthcare M&A

Ariadne Labs, a joint center between Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Crico/Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions developed a set of tools to ensure patient safety during health system mergers, acquisitions and affiliations.

All entities are based in Boston.

In a JAMA viewpoint, the researchers note the patient safety risks that can crop up during health system M&A activities. For example, merging or affiliating entities could have vastly different patient populations, protocols and staffing structures, which can lead to patient harm.

The researchers developed the new patient safety tools after interviewing numerous health system leaders and providers. The tools include guiding principles during M&A activity, a user's manual, discussion guides and a joint clinical integration guide. The tools aim to create a guided communication process that "fosters relationship building and teamwork" and "addresses areas of potential harm after affiliation begins," among other aims.

"When airlines merge, they follow a systematic process for putting pilots in unfamiliar planes," said Susan Haas, MD, an Ariadne Labs researcher and a visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "In health care mergers and affiliations, however, we have been much less deliberate. And the danger from that is significant."

The tools are available here.

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