The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


5203 Westlawn
(319) 335-9647

Release: Feb. 19, 2002

UI report recommends strategies for improving patient safety and health

To improve patient safety and health outcomes in Iowa, health care institutions and providers need to create collaborative environments that foster respect, trust and value among all members of the health care profession, according to a new report issued by the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

This recommendation is one of nine key principles and initiatives developed by a panel of health care experts at the workshop, "Developing a Statewide Framework for Patient Safety and Health in Iowa," held April 12, 2001, in Iowa City.

The workshop was held in conjunction with the conference, "Enhancing Patient Safety and Health in Iowa," which took place on the UI campus April 11, 2001. The conference provided a forum for critically examining issues, opportunities and initiatives for improving patient safety and health at the state and national levels. The event drew more than 200 participants, including leaders from Iowa's hospitals, government, health care, business, labor and insurance organizations, and other professionals in the health field.

"The conference and workshop report will serve as a resource for the Iowa Department of Public Health as its leadership assumes the responsibility for the next stage of this process, which we believe will lead to a statewide action plan," said Christopher Atchison, UI College of Public Health associate dean for public health practice and principal investigator of the patient safety project. "We are confident that can be done with the support of the many who have identified the shared importance of this agenda and the need to work collaboratively to achieve improved health outcomes."

Other measures for patient safety recommended in the report include an approach called "systems thinking," as well as implementation of continuous quality improvement (CQI) methods.

"Systems thinking involves looking at the whole picture, and how each component fits into the other pieces overall. A holistic system of policies and protocols can be developed to improve patient safety at the state and local levels," said Tanya Uden-Holman, Ph.D., UI assistant professor

of health management and policy, and director of the Institute for Quality Healthcare. "A CQI approach to patient safety means always looking for opportunities to make improvements. It's a continuous process of monitoring patient safety-related initiatives, identifying best practices and setting clear goals and targets for improvement."

The remaining key recommendations developed by the workshop participants include: utilizing an evidence-based approach to develop best practices; creating a learning environment that nurtures information sharing, is non-punitive, and relies on evidence-based research in order to generate innovations; engaging stakeholders to ensure a long-term commitment on a statewide basis; involving consumers in the education, decision-making and planning process; developing a strategy that addresses the legal issues surrounding the rights and responsibilities of health care providers and patients; and assuring confidentiality for all involved.

The report also provides summaries of the lectures and response panels delivered at the conference, as well as a synopsis of federal and state patient safety initiatives.

The patient safety project, funded by a $500,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was jointly initiated by the UI College of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Public Health in response to the 1999 Institute of Medicine report, "To Err is Human: Building a Safer System." The report challenged the American health care system to develop effective methods for preventing medical errors and to take steps to improve the quality of health care.

The report is available online at A limited number of printed copies are available by contacting Shari Heick at (319) 335-6994 or by e-mail at