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Safer Together: A National Effort

Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE

Resolve to bring a renewed focus to safety.

As leaders, we represent more than the roles we play. We belong to a profession centered on an important calling: to care for those who put their trust in us and to model the values for which we stand. We work tirelessly to advance health for our patients and communities, and each day we recommit to the safety imperative. We’ve worked together through initiatives and innovations to reduce preventable harm in our institutions. Even as we celebrate these achievements, we recognize that continual assessment and improvement are key to making further inroads.

To help accelerate progress, ACHE, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and 24 other leading healthcare organizations this past fall launched the new National Action Plan to Advance Patient Safety. I was personally honored to join the steering committee, a diverse group of healthcare providers, safety experts, and patient and family advocates with an aim to bring a renewed focus to the persistent problem of patient safety. This coalition has developed a set of actionable and effective recommendations you can use to make significant advances toward safer care and reduced harm.

Though the planning and research for the National Action Plan was well underway before COVID-19, the pandemic has clearly illustrated why focusing on patient and workforce safety remains critical. We know that supporting our workforce in their roles and in maintaining their own physical and emotional reserves is paramount in delivering on our mission. The National Action Plan dedicates an entire section to strategies that measurably improve safety for healthcare professionals. The tools and resources included are ready for immediate implementation as part of both your COVID-19 response and your own ongoing patient safety plans.

This year has been a stark reminder that many inequities persist in our country, which, unfortunately, affect our healthcare. Gaps in income, fewer employment opportunities, food insecurity and more factors have further accelerated as a result of COVID-19 and will continue to impact our patients’ social determinants of health. As part of its core principles, the National Action Plan is committed to eliminating disparities in care for those we serve. Resources include tactics to help you take a data-driven approach to identifying safety gaps and applying practices of equity and trauma-informed care.

In addition, the National Action Plan contains a self-assessment tool and an implementation resource guide to help you set safety goals and track progress over time.

I also encourage you to review our previous, enduring collaboration with the IHI Lucian Leape Institute: Leading a Culture of Safety: A Blueprint for Success. This interactive document assists leaders in creating, shaping and sustaining the kind of culture needed to advance patient and workforce safety efforts. It provides a foundation to inspire, motivate and inform organizations on their journey to zero harm.

You can find both documents—the National Action Plan and Leading a Culture of Safety: A Blueprint for Success—at ache.org/SaferTogether.

Wherever you are in your safety journey, I invite you to join us as we take our efforts to the next level. We hope that healthcare leaders across the continuum of care will amplify their voices to advance our commitments to our patients and caregivers, our workforce and others. Let us make 2021 the year we build momentum in delivering on the promise of safety and equity for all. Thank you for all you do. We are proud to serve you in this new year.


Learn more about the future of safety in healthcare by joining us at the 2021 Congress on Healthcare Leadership, March 22-25. Head to ache.org/Congress for more information on speakers and sessions today.


Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE, is president/CEO, American College of Healthcare Executives (dbowen@ache.org).

This blog post is repurposed from the article of the same name originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of Healthcare Executive.

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