The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report To Err Is Human1 converted an issue of growing professional awareness to one of substantial public concern in a manner and pace unprecedented in modern experience with matters of health care quality. The epidemiologic finding that more than 1 million injuries and nearly 100 000 deaths occur in the United States annually as a result of mistakes in medical care came from studies nearly a decade old, but it was new information for the public, and it resonated strongly. In short order, the US Congress initiated hearings and the president ordered a government-wide feasibility study, which led to a subsequent directive to governmental agencies to implement the recommendations of the IOM report. The IOM called on all parties to make improving patient safety a national priority. In response, physicians, hospitals, and health care organizations have been searching for safe practices and asking what they should do to make health care safer.
(July 24, 2002)