Executive Summary

Executive Summary
Viewing Health Care Delivery as Science: Challenges, Benefits and Policy Implications
The U.S. health care system is expensive, often harms patients, and frequently fails to
deliver high quality care. Over 100,000 patients die each year from hospital-acquired infections
and patients on average receive 50% of recommended therapies. Deficits in the delivery of care
stem from our failure to invest in and view the delivery of health care as a science. Until now,
Congress allocated a dollar to develop breakthrough treatments for every penny it allocated to
ensure Americans actually received those treatments. Consequently, the science to improve
safety is immature; examples of large-scale safety improvements are rare; methods to evaluate
progress in patient safety are virtually non-existent; and most importantly, patients continue to
suffer preventable morbidity, mortality, and added costs of care. The lack of data to analyze,
understand, and ultimately improve health care is a complex local and national problem that
leaves consumers in the dark and preventable deaths, suffering and costs invisible. In this essay,
we discuss some of the challenges, potential benefits, and policy implications of measuring
progress in patient safety. We also make recommendations to expedite the evolution of both the
science and public accountability for patient safety.