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National Patient Safety Board: A Step towards Safer, High-Quality Health Care

When you go to the doctor or to the hospital, you expect to feel safe. You expect to be in the best possible place to heal what is ailing you. But if you pull back the privacy curtain, the reality is that 1 in 4 people experience harm from the U.S. health care system.1 In fact, more than 250,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors.2 These include mistakes made during surgery, preventable infections, and more. 

Where has that feeling of safety and security gone? And how do we fix a system that is failing us?

Enter: The National Patient Safety Board (NPSB).

Since 2021, a growing coalition of health advocates have been looking for ways to address medical errors and never events – events that should never happen like operating on the wrong patient or leaving a material like surgical sponge in a patient after a procedure – that are costing billions every year.3  The National Patient Safety Board Advocacy Coalition is working toward a solution that uses existing data, patient-reported accounts, and experts to prevent patient harm.

On March 8, 2024, U.S. Representatives Nanette Barragán (CA-44) and Dr. Michael Burgess (TX-26), members of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, introduced the National Patient Safety Board Act (H.R. 7591).4 This bipartisan legislation would establish an independent board, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to help identify and anticipate harm, study the precursors, contextual factors, and causes of patient safety events, and develop solutions to prevent harm in the future. The Board would include a Health Care Safety Team and Study Division responsible for aggregating and analyzing existing data and developing studies of specific events. The Health Care Safety Team, a public-private partnership of providers, representatives for patients and caregivers, organized labor, federal agencies, experts with demonstrated patient safety experience, and more, would help create robust recommendations and reports for Congress. Importantly, the bill would also establish a national patient reporting portal that would allow individuals, caregivers, health care providers, and others to submit stories of medical errors, patient safety events, and other health care safety concerns.

To achieve high-quality health care, the U.S. health care system needs to protect the people it cares for. This work starts with families, individuals, advocates, and community leaders using their voices to create the change and safety all families deserve. That means reaching out to your representatives to show support for the National Patient Safety Board legislation and keeping this issue on the federal stage, and it means sharing your story.   

We have the power to make our health system, a system that holds the lives of our parents, grandparents and loved ones, safer for everyone. We all deserve trips to the doctor where we leave healthier than when we arrived. The creation of a National Patient Safety Board would be a huge step towards these goals.

If you want to learn more, check out Families USA and the NPSB Advocacy Coalition’s webinar, First Do No Harm: Addressing the Patient Safety Crisis.