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EY and Hopkins join forces to make medical facilities safer

Consulting firm EY and Johns Hopkins want to make health care safer.

Consulting firm EY is partnering with Johns Hopkins Medicine to try to make hospitals and other health care organizations safer.

The firm plans to help its health care clients devise safety plans and initiatives using clinical research and expertise from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. EY also plans to develop new products for its clients under the long-term contractual partnership.

Financial details were not disclosed, and EY does not share client information.

The Johns Hopkins institute has worked for years on improving infection rates at hospitals, with its first efforts focused on getting doctors and other medical staff to adhere to basic safety protocols and checklists. The strategy also involved collecting data so that doctors and administrators have a more accurate and timely picture of problems and can take more effective steps to prevent harm.

The Armstrong Institute has expanded those initial efforts and is now involved in developing technology to help make hospitals safer for patients. Last year, for example, the institute announced a collaboration with Microsoft to improve the way medical devices in hospital intensive care units communicate in hopes of curbing medical errors and preventable complications.

A study released last year by Johns Hopkins professor Martin Makary found that medical errors account for what is likely the third-leading cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't require hospitals to report medical errors in the data they provide on patient cause of death.

But the study found that preventable errors claim more than 251,000 lives every year, which is more than accidents and strokes.

"I think we have had some significant success at Johns Hopkins, and we are at a place where we are ready to expand some of the creative things we have done around the globe," said Nancy Edwards Molello, managing director of strategic partnerships at the institute.

EY officials believe clients can benefit from such innovation.

"We can offer our clients some real value in the clinical space, especially as it relates to preventable harm," said Jim Costanzo, EY global health care leader.

Ritu Agarwal, director of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, described the partnership as a "happy marriage" that has benefits for both sides.

"It might be the harbinger for similar partnerships in the future," she said.

Joining forces with a high-caliber medical institute can add an extra layer of validity and expertise to the services EY is offering its health care clients, Agarwal said. Hopkins would know more about the workings of a hospital than many EY consultants.

Hopkins can help get out the message about the importance of reducing infections and preventing harm, which can save lives and cut costs, Agarwal said. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are under pressure to reduce hospital readmissions and adverse events. Many hospitals also are looking for other revenue streams, as there is a push to cut back on health care costs.

In addition, the health care industry is growing overseas, and as new hospitals open, they are looking for the latest standards to follow.

Hopkins and EY will work under a contractor and subcontractor model. Each side could take the lead depending on the project, Costanzo said.

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