The Joint Commission and National Quality Forum (NQF) announced the recipients of the 2023 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Awards. The Eisenberg Awards recognize major achievements by individuals and organizations that improved patient safety and healthcare quality.

This year’s honorees improved safety and quality of care by making surgery safer for at-risk patients, reducing radiation exposure and opioid risks for cardiovascular patients, and making foundational improvements to coordination and teamwork among healthcare providers.

Each year, awards are presented for national-level innovation, local-level innovation and individual achievement. The 2023 awardees are:

  • National Level Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality: The Surgical Pause – Veterans Health Administration
  • Local Level Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality: Creating a Culture of Quality for Cardiovascular Care in Michigan – BMC2
  • Individual Achievement: Eduardo Salas, PhD, Rice University

“Each year, the Eisenberg Awards showcase innovative healthcare quality and patient safety efforts that have had a significant demonstrable impact on improving patient outcomes and reducing avoidable healthcare harms,” says Dana Gelb Safran, ScD, president and CEO of NQF.

“The work of this year’s individual and institutional recipients embodies the legacy of Dr Eisenberg, who was a visionary pioneer and changemaker committed to translating research into real-world delivery system improvements that ensure safe, reliable, and effective care for every patient in every setting. The Joint Commission and NQF are proud to recognize these outstanding innovators as we continue to honor Dr Eisenberg’s enduring contributions to our field,” Gelb Safran adds.

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is recognized for its initiative the Surgical Pause, which reduced six-month mortality of patients determined to be “frail” from 25% to 8% at three VA medical centers. Under the initiative, providers implemented routine frailty screening with the Risk Analysis Index to identify patients at the highest risk of postoperative complications, loss of independence, and mortality.

For patients found to be frail, a brief “pause” permits further evaluation. For patients who pursue surgery, multidisciplinary care plans are implemented to reduce frailty-associated risks before surgery, shifting the paradigm and effort to strengthening the frail patient and mitigating potential complications before they happen. Further analysis of more than 50,000 patients found that one-year mortality declined by 4.2%. As a result of this success, the Surgical Pause has been replicated across more than 50 medical centers across VA and the private sector.

BMC2 (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Cardiovascular Consortium) is a statewide quality improvement collaborative that develops and administers a portfolio of quality improvement interventions for patients who undergo percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI), vascular surgical procedures, and transcatheter valve procedures in Michigan. As a result of the initiative Creating a Culture of Quality for Cardiovascular Care in Michigan, BMC2 participant sites:

  • Improved documentation of radiation use from 73.1% in 2019 to 85.5% in 2021. BMC2 sites are outperforming national rates, which were 57.5% in 2019 and 74.3% in 2021.
  • Achieved an overall 43% decrease in cases with high-dose radiation exposure (2.8% in 2018 to 1.2% in 2021) for hundreds of patients and catheterization laboratory staff members.
  • Reduced opioid pill prescribing. Data showed improvement in the rate of patients with a prescription for fewer than 10 opioid pills, increasing from 62% in 2018 to 91% in 2021.

Eduardo Salas, PhD, of Rice University, is recognized for his body of work across 40 years designing, developing, and evaluating evidence-based principles and tools to help healthcare organizations create a culture of teamwork and safety. Most notable is his development of TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies & Tools to Enhance Performance & Patient Safety), a coordination and teamwork framework that has been adopted by 70% of U.S. hospitals to help reduce medical errors. Salas has published more than 420 journal articles and two books, edited 36 books, and has given hundreds of presentations. His work has been cited more than 132,000 times.

“Congratulations to Veterans Health Administration, BMC2, and Eduardo Salas, for their tremendous achievements worthy of the 2023 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Awards,” says Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, MSHA, MACP, FACMI, president and CEO of The Joint Commission enterprise. “We envision a future where all people always experience the safest, highest quality healthcare across all settings. The accomplishments by the 2023 Eisenberg awardees serve as examples of inspirational, yet replicable efforts enabling healthcare organizations to drive real improvements to patient safety and quality.”