Pre-Telluride Experience Post: Research Fellowship Focused on Patient Safety & Quality Improvement

High quality healthcare is patient-centered medicine, excellent outcomes, and preventing unnecessary risk or harm to our patients delivered in a cost-effective way. I am doing a two-year research fellowship during my General Surgery training, and am focusing my studies on quality improvement and patient safety. I am passionate about improving outcomes, identifying patients at high risk for complications, and ensuring the patient experience at my institution is one that prioritizes the patient as an individual and their unique medical experience. I chose to attend the Telluride Experience so I can learn the tools to identify areas of improvement and strategies to create sustainable change in my hospital.

Patient safety is integral to good patient care because we cannot provide excellent medical treatment without first protecting the patient’s basic needs. If we are not treating every step of the patient’s medical journey from the parking lot to the operating room to the inpatient bed with the same importance as what surgery we are performing, easily preventable complications can derail the patient’s medical care and result in permanent harm. For instance, it may seem like an easy solution to provide patients with Uber credits to get to and from screening colonoscopies to encourage more people to have colorectal cancer screenings and increase access to healthcare to people who may previously been unable to do so because of lack of transportation. Although this initiative may improve survival for those who received screenings and caught a polyp early, it also puts patients at risk by allowing them to be transported home after receiving sedation with a stranger with no medical knowledge. All it takes is one patient aspirating, not waking up from anesthesia appropriately, or falling and hitting his head resulting in intracranial hemorrhage to completely derail any benefit the screenings could provide.

I hope to better understand the nuances of balancing patient safety with providing medical care in scenarios that are not always black and white. I hope to learn techniques to create buy in from difficult stakeholders. I hope to walk away from the Telluride Experience with toolbox full of techniques and strategies to create sustainable change in a complex environment.