As we have done throughout the years, we sat down with our HOPE Award winner and asked him to reflect on his work. Here is the transcript of our interview with the 2013 HOPE Award winner, Dr. Timothy McDonald:
MITSS: What are your personal reflections on winning the 2013 MITSS HOPE Award?
McDonald: I was surprised and profoundly humbled when notified I had won the 2013 MITSS Hope Award. Simultaneously, I felt extremely proud of the recognition the HOPE award brings to the entire team of people at the University of Illinois with whom I have worked over the past several years. Reflecting on the past winners of the award, I was reminded of the impact of their hard and passionate work on all the current approaches to providing emotional first aid to patients, families, and providers when patient harm occurs. During the award presentation at the MITSS Annual Dinner, the words of MITSS founder, Linda Kenney and the keynote speaker, Rick Boothman, motivated me to build upon some of our past successes and help to more rapidly disseminate the vision and mission of MITSS nationally and internationally.
MITSS: Along with a significant body of work developed over the course of your career, the HOPE Award nomination specifically highlighted your work developing and implementing the Seven Pillars process. Could you briefly describe the process as well as comment on its uniqueness and contribution to the field of patient safety?
McDonald: The Seven Pillars approach to patient harm is a comprehensive multi-step process that is integrated into the DNA of a hospital or health system's Patient Safety, Quality, and Risk Management efforts. The process begins with the immediate reporting of safety events and includes the investigation, communication, and process improvements that follow. The Seven Pillars approach is unique in its rapid response to harm with a commitment to begin the process of providing emotional first aid and healing for patients and providers within an hour of the harm event.
MITSS: How do you see the role of the patient in your work? Do you see a more significant role for patients in the future? Why? How?
McDonald: Patients and families provide essential, unique, and critical insights in helping us understand the causes and potential solutions related to unexpected patient outcomes. Their presence at our Board meetings and patient safety committee meetings remind of us of our imperative to move the needle further and faster in the domain of patient safety and quality outcomes.
MITSS: What is the most important thing(s) you have learned along your journey?
McDonald: Over the past 14 years, since the IOM "To Err is Human" report, I have been astounded at the power that open, honest, and compassionate can help us heal, learn, and improve following patient harm.
MITSS: Where do you see your work going in the near/distant future?
McDonald: In the near term, I am excited to be working with Tom Gallagher and other national leaders in the creation of tools and dissemination of many of the communication and resolution components of the Seven Pillars nationally with funding support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Going forward, I also look forward to the dissemination of this work beyond the US and into other regions of the world.
MITSS: Do you have any specific plans for the $5,000 cash prize?
McDonald: The cash prize will be placed in our Patient Safety fund that is used to provide specialized communication training for staff who are engaged in disclosure of medical error and in providing care for the caregiver following patient harm events.
Thank you, Dr. Tim McDonald, for your remarkable contributions to the field and congratulations again on receiving the HOPE Award!