Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project held an incredible conference on November 6, 2013 at Columbia University’s School of Journalism in NYC that gathered experts, journalists and activists to address the pressing public health threat of medical harm. Our conference, “Ending Medical Harm: Tackling the 3rd leading cause of death in the US,” had approximately 150 attendees who listened to guest speakers and panels from ProPublica, USA Today, Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center, and patient safety advocates who are shedding light on hospital infections, medical errors and harmful medical devices. A recent analysis published by the Journal of Patient Safety by John T. James, founder of Patient Safety America and a member of Consumers Union’s network of advocates, concluded that as many as 440,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable harm while hospitalized. Given the number of lives at stake, the US should be treating patient safety as a national emergency and mounting a much more aggressive campaign to end medical harm.
After the conference, about 30 of us held a protest at a nearby hospital and passed out flyers with Consumer Reports surgery safety ratings for NYC hospitals. It was a great opportunity to talk to New Yorkers about patient safety and encourage them to get informed about their local hospitals’ safety records. Many patient safety advocates say they wish they had known about medical harm before they entered the hospital. Sadly, most people get informed only after they are harmed. Join us in demanding more urgent action to end medical harm, including public transparency of health care data on errors, hospital infections, dangerous doctors, and medical devices.
This event marked the 10-year anniversary of Consumers Union’s patient safety campaign. Over the years, we’ve heard thousands of patient harm stories and built up a powerful network of empowered advocates who work with us to “End Secrecy, Save Lives.” Here are some highlights from the day: