Mar 30, 2009

International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare - Berlin

From the 17th to the 20th of March, nearly a 100 students and teachers/mentors from 9 different countries participated in the BMJ & IHI International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare. Being a part of this group of enthusiastic group, truly made the Forum an unforgettable and inspirational experience for me, and it gives an extra boost when it come to spreading the word about the importance of quality and safety in health care to your peers back home.

The Forum had nearly 2000 participants from 65 different countries alltogether, all meeting up to share their experiences from and to learn about initiatives to improve the safety and care for patients worldwide. The spirit of the Forum is very idealistic, these people gather with a common objective, to take an active part in changing health care systems, to insure that every single patients recieve the best possible care.

Dr. Don Berwick adressed the issue of Patient and Family Centered Care in his Keynote on the 18th of March, sharing his vision about a health care system that rather would look upon patients as individuals, with different needs, rather than an unpersonal mass. This represents a different way of thinking, which in my view is what the improvement-movement is all about. To redefine the way we provide healthcare, and actually acknowledge that one might need to think outside the box to do it. This is something that struck me and many of my peers during the four hectical days in Berlin. Working on improvement and safety isn't necessarily very difficult, but it requires that you get a different perspective on the job you are doing. One of my favourite quotations from last year, which I heard again in Berlin is "We all have two jobs, one is to do the job we're trained to do, the second one is to constantly improve the job we're doing."

The improvement work that is going on in developing countries also impressed me. IHI, USAID among others, are running projects in collaboration with local authorities in several low-income countries. To see what they have accomplished, e.g. with the distribution of HAART-medication, and on maternal health should be a big inspiration for all of us, I know it is for me. It also shows one of the big strengths of the methodology of quality improvement and safety, it is universal and applicable to most health care systems.

Being given the possibility to take part of this more or less idealistic movement is an opportunity I wish all health care professional students would get. This sounds like utopia, but it is actually possible, through the IHI Open School. That however requires advocates, both students and teachers, that share their experiences and get the message across to their peers. That is something all the students and their teachers agreed upon on the very last day; we're stronger together, and we can contribute to make a change for the better.

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