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The Cutting Edge - Primum non nocere

Cutting Edge Winter 2012

Primum non nocere

Date: January 1, 2012

It is one of the first things we’re taught as medical students: First do no harm.

Of course, the best way to do no harm is to prevent it from happening in the first place, to take the knowledge we have—such as clinical outcomes data—and learn from it. That’s the primary goal of the American College of Surgeons’ National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP), an outcomes data collection program geared not only toward reducing complications and improving outcomes, but also at reducing health care costs—all of which play a leading role in the breakdown of America’s current health care system.

The data supporting the NSQIP program are staggering: If 4,500 hospitals across the nation adopted the NSQIP standards, nearly $260 billion could be saved over the next decade. On average, participating hospitals prevent 200 to 250 complications and save 12 to 36 lives each year. But to date, only 400 hospitals participate.

In a society where safety and cost are two of the greatest factors affecting medical care—in fact, the United States is estimated to have the most costly health care of any nation—it is crucial that hospitals do all they can to save not just money, but lives. It’s why we in the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Surgery are so dedicated to continuing our involvement in NSQIP: It’s one more way we can offer the best care to patients who deserve just that.

Hopkins’ own success with the NSQIP program offers proof of its value. Not only have we continually achieved high scores and shown good results based on the outcomes data we’ve collected, but we’re able to use that data to examine ourselves. Better, more accurate data allows us to more honestly assess ourselves so that we can gain a better understanding of where we excel and, even more importantly, where we can do better. And to do better is what we should constantly strive for.

Julie Freischlag

Director of Surgery

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