Patient Safety

By Adeola Ogungbadero, VP of Clinical Operations and Nicole Mitton, Grants and Communications Specialist

The Institute of Medicine in its epic 1999 report “To err is human” estimates that up to 98,000 patients die annually in hospitals due to medical errors. In 2013, a new study by Dr. John T. James for the Journal of Patient Safety suggests that the numbers for preventable adverse events (PAEs) may be higher, affecting 210,000 to 440,000 patients each year who seek care at a hospital. If the numbers are accurate, death by medical errors would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.

Whittier Street Health Center recognizes the importance of actively addressing patient safety as a strategic priority and ensuring that every patient receives optimal care. We have received a gold seal of approval from the Joint Commission since 2002. The Joint Commission is an independent nonprofit that assess healthcare facilities like Whittier to ensure compliance with very high standards, including passing specific patient safety goals. For 2015, the National Safety Patient Goals are:


  1. Identify patients correctly—To ensure that patients get the correct medicine and treatment
  2. Use medicines safely—To ensure that patients do not mix medications, which may lead to adverse side effects
  3. Prevent infection—By washing hands


In 2014, Whittier instituted a Patient Safety First campaign to further enhance our efforts. The campaign is ongoing and involves comprehensive training of all of our staffs on the protocols to maintain patient safety; increasing avenues for staffs to report safety incidents; and encouraging patients to openly discuss their safety concerns.

All campaign activities respond to evidence-based findings about safety. For example, studies have shown that 80% of serious medical errors come from miscommunication, particularly during shift changes. Because Whittier is a NCQA recognized Patient-Centered Medical Home, we deliver primary care services through multidisciplinary teams of health care professionals. All providers use our Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system to monitor each patient’s condition, referrals, and health goals, and so each patient only has one chart that can be reviewed and updated by all members of that patient’s care team. This reduces the risk of miscommunication.

There are Safety First cards available on all floors of our building for patients to report any safety incident or concerns. Patients also actively participate in our Quality Assurance Committee and Patient Advisory Committees, which review our organizational activities related to safe practices for everyone. We are creating a culture of transparency, where patients and staff feel empowered to report errors and near misses. We see our patients and employees as active partners in providing safe and quality care.

For more questions or to participate in the Patient Advisory Committee, please call the Manager of Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement at 617-989-3046.


Online Sources:

A New, Evidence-Based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care
Joint Commission – 2015 National Patient Safety Goals