The recipients of the 2020 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Awards were honored in a virtual awards ceremony during the National Quality Forum’s (NQF) annual conference in July. The Eisenberg Awards—established in 2002 by The Joint Commission and the NQF—recognize those individuals and institutions that have made significant and long-lasting contributions to improving patient safety and health care quality.
The award is named for former Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Administrator John M. Eisenberg, MD, MBA, who was an impassioned advocate for health care quality improvement (QI) and a founding member of NQF’s board of directors. Dr. Eisenberg dedicated his life to ensuring care was based on a strong foundation of research and that it considered the patient’s needs and perspectives.
“John Eisenberg’s excitement and passion for achieving safe care everywhere inspired countless clinicians, leaders, and researchers to follow in his footsteps through hard work,” said Carolyn Clancy, MD, MACP, Department of Veterans Affairs, who was the 2020 Eisenberg Award Panel Chairperson. “This year’s submissions clearly demonstrate that this spirit of dedication is alive and well.”
The 2020 winners are:
- David M. Gaba, MD, professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine, and associate dean for immersive and simulation-based learning, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, for the Individual Achievement Award
- Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for the Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality at the National Level Award
- Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, IL, for the Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality at the Local Level Award
“The John M. Eisenberg Awards—which were created to honor the enduring legacy of Dr. Eisenberg—showcase how innovation and dedication to process improvement can lead to sustainable solutions to some of health care’s greatest challenges,” said David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice-president, Division of Health Care Quality Evaluation, The Joint Commission. “During these challenging times of a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, the winners of this year’s Eisenberg Awards are an inspiration and further the mission of improving patient safety and quality of care.”
Individual Achievement Award
Dr. Gaba has contributed more than 125 peer-reviewed publications on organizational safety theory, human factors, and safety culture. His work and experience include safety experimentation, developing and advancing theory, teaching, editing, and being a scholar and institutional leader.
Of note, Dr. Gaba’s work includes the following:
- Invention, use, and commercialization of modern mannequin-based simulation. While originating in anesthesiology, such simulators are now used in intensive care, emergency medicine, trauma, neonatology, cardiac arrest or rapid response teams, and surgery.
- Adaptation of crew resource management from aviation to use within anesthesiology. This was adapted by Dr. Gaba’s group in the late 1980s as part of simulation-based training.
- Creation and promulgation of multi-event cognitive aids for real-time use in time-critical, life-threatening situations.
Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality at the National Level Award
The Veterans Health Administration was awarded the Eisenberg Award at the national level for its work with the VHA Rapid Naloxone Initiative, which reduced opioid overdose deaths by increasing the rapid availability of naloxone.
The Eisenberg Awards—established in 2002 by The Joint Commission and the NQF—recognize those individuals and institutions that have made significant and long-lasting contributions to improving patient safety and health care quality.
The initiative included the following elements:
- Providing opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution to VHA patients at risk for opioid overdose
- Providing naloxone to Veterans Administration (VA) police
- Including naloxone in select automated external defibrillator (AED) cabinets
As a result of the initiative, VHA equipped more than 255,000 veterans with naloxone, and 82 percent of VA medical centers equipped 2,785 of their police officers with naloxone. A total of 92 facilities deployed naloxone in 693 AED cabinets.
The program reported more than 1,500 overdose reversals with naloxone, while VA police reported more than 132 overdose reversals. Also reported were six overdose reversals with AED cabinet naloxone.
Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality at the Local Level Award
Northwestern Medicine was selected as the winner at the local level for its Northwestern Medicine Academy for Quality and Safety Improvement, which prepares individuals across multiple departments and professions to lead QI projects. The seven-month program consists of classwork and team-based project work. Training sessions address core quality topics and process improvement methods. The participant teams complete a project during the program, but the program’s key goal is to prepare participants to engage in QI efforts and lead QI projects after the program ends.
Over the past eight years, the results of the programs include the following:
- 66 percent of teams have improved performance across a range of problems.
- Surveys of participants 18 months post-program show most (73 percent) have engaged in subsequent QI efforts, and many (43 percent) have led other QI projects, with 41 percent providing QI mentorship.
More information is available about the award winners in a special Take 5 podcast series, which is available on The Joint Commission’s website.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Dr. Jacobs and do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Commission or the American College of Surgeons.