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3/7/2012
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GE Collaborative Tool To Aid Patient Safety

Company's Global Patient Safety Network will help providers collaborate online with their peers and analyze safety incident data.

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GE Healthcare Performance Solutions, a unit of GE Healthcare, is about to launch a Global Patient Safety Network (GPSN) that will allow healthcare providers in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada to collaborate online to help improve patient safety. From April through June, GE will allow healthcare organizations to participate in this online community free of charge so they can evaluate it.

Operated under the aegis of GE's federally certified Patient Safety Organization (PSO), the GPSN is designed partly to help U.S. providers participate in the Department of Health and Human Services' new Hospital Engagement Networks (HENs). (However, GE has no direct relationship with the HHS program.)

The GPSN not only enables these providers to collaborate online with their peers here and abroad, it also provides resources to analyze safety incident data, said Jeff Terry, General Manager, Operations Optimization, GE Healthcare Performance Solutions, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

HHS recently announced it would provide HEN grants totaling $218 million to 26 state, regional, and national entities and healthcare systems. Part of the government's Partnership for Patients initiative, the HENs are supposed to develop learning collaboratives for hospitals and to engage in other activities to improve patient safety.

Besides GPSN's worldwide online community, the GE network will include private communities of providers. "We think of them as walled gardens in this overall network, where the people in Maryland can work with the Maryland HEN on specific activities, for example," said Terry.

He stressed the importance of linking providers with others who work in similar kinds of facilities and have encountered the same safety issues. "There's no shortage of information about the shortage of safety and what can be done at a high level to improve it. Often what's missing is the micro-information. For example, what has been done to reduce falls in an outpatient oncology setting? That's radically different than falls in an inpatient surgical setting. When you can connect people who are working on the same nuanced problems, that can be really valuable."

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The HENs don't necessarily have the infrastructure for online collaboration or the secure incident reporting platforms they need to do this kind of work, Terry noted. That's where GE believes it may be able to build a business. While he declined to reveal how much the company would charge for this kind of support, he said the GPSN would be "inexpensive compared to big patient safety programs. We're talking thousands of dollars per year to participate."

When the GE PSO was announced a year ago, it included 16 member hospitals, most of them in Rhode Island. Today, Terry said, the PSO encompasses about 200 organizations, including 35 acute-care hospitals. Among the other organizations are outpatient imaging centers, ambulatory surgery centers, and skilled nursing facilities, he said.

Currently, the PSO is using the Medical Event Reporting System-Total Health System (MERS-TH) to report patient safety incidents in all its member facilities. But Terry said GE is open to embracing other platforms as well, depending on what the HENs choose. Right now, their plans are in flux, he said.

The biggest challenge to gathering safety data and collaborating on solutions is the reluctance of physicians and nurses to report safety incidents. According to an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report cited by Terry, eight of 10 incidents go unreported.

"Reporting systems like MERS and the sharing of knowledge through GPSN can be part of the solution," Terry said. "Doctors and nurses need to know they can safely report incidents without fear of retribution."

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)

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