Patient Safety Advocates Start New England Watchdog Group

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Connecticut patient safety advocates have joined forces in New England to form New England Voices For Error Reduction (NEVER), a group that aims to work regionally for safe health care.

The new group wants to provide consumers with information to help them make decisions when selecting a doctor, a hospital or making another health care choice.  The group said that there is a lack of coordinated data available to consumers to make informed choices.

“Our mission is to be the watchdog for consumers in holding health care facilities, administrators and others accountable for quality improvements and [medical] error reduction,” said Lori Nerbonne, co-founder of New Hampshire Patient Voices, and a NEVER member.

Nerbonne said that the group hopes to be the ‘’voice of victims of medical harm, as they are an under-represented voice and yet pay dearly physically, emotionally and financially.’’

Jean Rexford, the executive director of Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, is the driving force behind NEVER.

Rexford, a long-time patient advocate, said consumers should to be able to look at health care not only within the state they live in, but by region as well. She said people should be able to match services they seek with those offered at the best quality and lowest cost.

“There needs to be a way to see how hospitals are stacking up to other hospitals,” said Rexford.

NEVER plans to develop a regional outreach plan to offer a patient safety curriculum, including speakers, to medical and nursing students. There is also planning going on for public information campaigns to provide the consumer with patient safety information.

Rexford said that some issues that have to be reviewed by NEVER include the overuse of CT scans, the number of surgeries done without need and the monitoring of patient infection statistics.

Nerbonne said, there is a problem of “reverse supply and demand” that needs to be addressed.  Some testing, she said, is being done because the technology and machines are available, not because there is a medical need.

NEVER said that the Leapfrog Group for Patient Safety and Dartmouth Atlas of Health both provide ‘’quality’’ information to consumers on health care.  In Connecticut only Sharon Hospital is participating in Leapfrog.  Massachusetts has 63 of 73 hospitals participating.  NEVER’s goal is to get every hospital in New England to participate in Leapfrog, said Rexford.

Dartmouth Atlas provides reports and analysis of how medical resources are used and distributed using Medicare data, according to its website.  NEVER plans to use the Dartmouth data to develop a regional report for New England consumers.

“We’re advocating for good quality data that providers already have access to,” said Nerbonne.

“[NEVER is] working toward creating a regional office for patient safety similar to the Pennsylvania Cost Containment Counsel, which is a consortium made up of employers, consumers, and businesses,” said Rexford.

“We’re just starting, but we do have ambitious goals. We want to spread that word that we want to be a part of this. We are here and we are watching,” said Nerbonne.

To contact NEVER e-mail Rexford at JeanRexford at

Allison England is a Southern Connecticut State University intern.