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Anesthesiologist wins safety and quality award
John H. Eichhorn, MD, anesthesiologist at UK Chandler Medical Center and professor at the University of Kentucky, both in Lexington, has been named a recipient in the annual John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Awards from the National Quality Forum (NQF) and The Joint Commission.
Eichhorn is recognized for improving the quality of anesthesia care and patient safety through the development and application of practice standards and protocols. His contributions led to dramatic and sustained reductions in catastrophic intraoperative anesthesia accidents, as well as improved anesthesia patient safety and quality of care overall, according to The Joint Commission and NQF.
In the nomination letter, Joseph Conigliaro, MD, director of the Center for Excellence in Quality and Safety at University of Kentucky Medical Center said Eichhorn "created and implemented the concept of mandatory clinical 'standards of practice' (above and beyond, and distinct from, 'statements,' 'recommendations,' and 'guidelines') as quality improvement instruments, a strategy that proved to have enormous impact. This approach permanently changed anesthesia practice and has had a significant positive influence on the safety of patients anesthetized in the U.S. (and much of the developed world) over the last 20 years."
Eichhorn was described as a leader in the anesthesia patient safety movement. "Dr. Eichhorn pioneered, researched, and popularized the concept of 'safety monitoring' the intense integration of behavior and technology through the application of mandatory practice standards," Conigliaro said. "The principles embodied in these standards have been widely credited with producing a dramatic decrease in catastrophic intraoperative anesthesia accidents." In an interview with Same-Day Surgery, Eichhorn said the risk of having a catastrophic intraoperative anesthesia accident is less than 1 in 350,000 and might be as remote as 1 in 500,000. "People don't understand that the risk of the average person getting killed in a wreck is about 1 in 6,000 to 1 in 7,000," he said. "It's vastly safer to have anesthetic than to ride in a car for a year."
Eichhorn served as the secretary of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Committee on Standards. This committee formulated national standards for monitoring anesthesia patients. Eichhorn also demonstrated the efficacy of safety monitoring. At the ASA, Eichhorn developed and promulgated guidelines for practice areas including preoperative and postoperative care and anesthesia at remote sites.
Eichhorn convened the International Task Force on Anesthesia Safety. This group published the International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anaesthesia, which were adopted as the official world standards by the World Federated Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA). He also participated in the Anaesthesia Working Group, which was part of the WHO Safe Surgery Saves Lives task force. The resulting comprehensive program for safer surgery includes a 19-point "Surgical Safety Checklist" (http://www.who.int/patientsafety/safesurgery/ss_checklist/en/index.html).