Forbes: Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and Johns Hopkins Tackle Patient Safety

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What can the healthcare industry learn from “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot  “Sully” Sullenberger?  What lessons on patient safety can be taught by thought leaders from such diverse domains as aerospace, consumer research, defense, nuclear power, education, and hospitality?  These were some of the intriguing questions explored last week at the inaugural Forum on Emerging Topics in Patient Safety, jointly sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Qualityand the World Health Organization.

Dr. Peter Pronovost, Johns Hopkins Medicine Senior Vice President for Patient Safety and Quality, is one of the nation’s leading advocates for patient safety.  During his keynote address, Pronovost explained that “… medical errors and preventable patient harm is the third leading cause of death in the United States and contributes to an estimated $800 billion—one third of all health care costs—spent each year on unneeded or inefficiently delivered care.”

The discussion then moved to a more relatable, human level.  Some of the most moving stories came from family members of those lost to preventable medical errors.  Leah Coufal, a beautiful, healthy 11-year-old girl, went to the hospital for an elective procedure and ended up dying from undetected respiratory arrest brought on by the narcotics intended to ease her pain.  By all accounts, placing her on a simple monitor after her surgery could have saved her life.  Her mother’s haunting account of the events leading to her daughter’s death serves as a reminder to us all that more must be done to keep our loved ones safe.


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Sully Sullenberger
Sully Sullenberger
Captain "Sully" Sullenberger has been dedicated to the pursuit of safety his entire adult life. While he is best known for serving as Captain during what has been dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson," Sullenberger is a safety expert, speaker, and author. He currently serves on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Advisory Committee for Automation in Transportation, and still flies privately.

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