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Modest Johns Hopkins doctor's crusade has saved thousands

Dr. Peter Pronovost is the medical director of the Quality and Safety Research Group at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  He has single-handedly revolutionized basic medicine and saved thousands of lives, through a dedicated campaign aimed at improving hospital patient safety by institutionalizing simple, basic safety measures.  You might say that he has put the airline pilot's checklist into the hands of physicians and enabled nurses to assure that the checklist is followed. 

Pronovost has written a book with an over-long title beginning "Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals..."  In a recent article, he explained that the genesis of his crusade was his father's death at age 50 from a treatable form of lymphoma that was misdiagnosed  and untreated for so long that his father was told he had lost his opportunity for cure.  A child who needlessly died from a catheter infection and a run-in with an arrogant surgeon who wouldn't discard his latex gloves--even though they were poisoning his patient, buttressed Pronovost's will to "make medicine do better." 

The death of the child from the catheter infection at one of the world's best hospitals prompted Pronovost to create an infection checklist for ICU care providers that has significantly reduced the estimated 31,000 bloodstream infection fatalities that were occurring in the U.S. each year.  Ultimately his checklist was introduced to 100 intensive care units in Michigan, as an experiment, and the rate of infection was reduced almost to zero.  Now it is being adopted world-wide.  A significant element of Pronovost's campaign has been to empower nurses to challenge hurried or impatient physicians in an environment where the nurses have been trained not to question the medical staff.  Pronovost believes that training nurses and doctors to work together as an empowered team is a key to reducing unnecessary hospital mortality and morbidity.

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