What We're Doing and Thinking at The Center for Patient Protection

Advocating for Safer Care for Everyone

Deny and Defend Culture Weakens Trust in Healthcare System

(Published in The Huffington Post) On a late Sun­day night one recent long week­end, I was urgently con­tacted by a fam­ily who was dis­tressed over the treat­ment their elderly father was receiv­ing in the hos­pi­tal. I oper­ate an online out­reach clinic for patients and fam­i­lies through The Cen­ter for Patient Pro­tec­tion. It has helped thou­sands over the years nav­i­gate their way toward safer care and deal with the emo­tional trauma of med­ical errors when they occur. (More...)

"We can't afford a healthcare system that delivers so much avoidable harm."

The Center for Patient  Protection is an unrelenting champion of safer care and more positive outcomes for patients and families in the hospital setting.  

Founded by Kathleen Finlay following her elderly mother's life-shattering encounter with medical errors and breakdowns in care, and driven by the devastating hospital experiences of other patients and families around the world, The Center for Patient Protection was formed to combat what has become the third leading cause of death in the United States and Canada. Medical errors and hospital-acquired infections claim thousands of lives each year, leave millions injured and add unnecessary billions to the costs of healthcare. We are strongly committed to the belief that the scale and impact of this challenge requires a bolder, more forthright approach on the part of lawmakers, healthcare providers and all of us who have a stake in safe, affordable and accountable healthcare.   

As an independent healthcare advocate, The Center for Patient Protection works to build public awareness, promote more robust patient- and family-centered practices and encourage the best providers to create more transparent and compassionate healthcare cultures that strengthen patient safety and reduce emotional harm. Our flagship campaign, Keep Me Safe — Make Patient  Protection 1st, is a major step in reaching these goals.  More about us...

  1. Become Informed

    Become Informed

    A safe patient is an informed patient. In health­care, hav­ing the right infor­ma­tion can mean the dif­fer­ence between life and death. What few patients and fam­i­lies know is that med­ical errors and infec­tions in the hos­pi­tal set­ting are the third lead­ing cause of death in the United States and Canada.  Tak­ing up to 500,000 lives a year, hos­pi­tal harm claims more lives in both coun­tries than strokes, Alzheimer’s, breast can­cer, kid­ney dis­ease and auto­mo­bile acci­dents com­bined.  You’ve heard plenty about those causes of death over the years.  Chances are you’ve heard very lit­tle about hos­pi­tal harm.  Yet in the U.S., stud­ies have shown that one-in-three patients will face a mis­take dur­ing their hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, which can range from a med­ica­tion error or a fall to a sur­gi­cal blun­der or hospital-acquired infec­tion.  Some of these mis­takes can be cor­rected; some have more last­ing con­se­quences.  Some lead to per­ma­nent dis­abil­ity, which was the case with the mother of The Center’s founder.  And some lead to death.

    Many patients and fam­i­lies we have spo­ken with over the years have expressed the shared feel­ing that if only they had known about the risks of hos­pi­tal harm, they would have been more vig­i­lant, more ques­tion­ing and more engaged. Too many fam­ily mem­bers have found them­selves haunted by remorse and anger that they were not bet­ter informed and more per­sis­tent in demand­ing the atten­tion a loved one required.  Don’t let you or your fam­ily be among them.

    Learn about the risks that can face a patient in the hos­pi­tal. Under­stand your rights to be fully engaged in your care or a loved one’s. Know what to do if harm occurs.  Explore the issues on our web­site.  Fol­low the links to rec­om­mended resources and fur­ther read­ing.  View the videos we have col­lected.  Above all, don’t take any­thing for granted.  Being a safe patient, or a care­giv­ing fam­ily mem­ber, in a hos­pi­tal today can be a full-time job. Know the toll it can take.  Be pre­pared for the chal­lenge that lies ahead.  

    For the most part, our hos­pi­tals are mar­velous places of heal­ing and care.  Just be aware that things can go wrong.  Being informed can help reduce that risk.




  2. Become Engaged

    Become Engaged

    A safe patient is an engaged patient.  In fact, patient and fam­ily engage­ment is con­sid­ered the gold stan­dard in safe hos­pi­tal care.  It puts the patient at the very cen­ter of the care team. It rec­og­nizes that he or she has the right to be informed and con­sulted about every phase of care and to be treated with respect and com­pas­sion.  It sup­ports the vital role that fam­i­lies play when a loved one is hos­pi­tal­ized and struc­tures hos­pi­tal poli­cies, like unre­stricted vis­it­ing hours, to reflect that reality.  

    To stay safe, patients and fam­i­lies need to be vig­i­lant, ask ques­tions and be ready to act if things don’t seem right. True patient and fam­ily engage­ment has con­sis­tently been shown to con­tribute to more pos­i­tive out­comes for patients and fam­i­lies. You should look on the provider’s web­site for more infor­ma­tion about where it stands on both patient-centered care and patient and fam­ily engagement.  

    Keep a com­pre­hen­sive jour­nal of your hos­pi­tal stay, or your loved one’s, from start to fin­ish.  If you’re a fam­ily mem­ber, make sure you have it with you while vis­it­ing. Make detailed notes about the care that is being pro­vided, as well as any sig­nif­i­cant con­ver­sa­tions and inter­ac­tions with health­care pro­fes­sion­als or hos­pi­tal admin­is­tra­tors.  Always make sure to get their name and occu­pa­tion or posi­tion in the hos­pi­tal.  Med­ical records (which include, for exam­ple, doctor’s orders, progress notes, med­ica­tion admin­is­tra­tion charts and test results) don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to hos­pi­tal harm. Vital infor­ma­tion may be left out. If you have your own accu­rate record, that can help in forc­ing proper dis­clo­sure and account­abil­ity.  Make sure you know about the provider’s com­plaint process and the means of esca­lat­ing con­cerns if you feel you are not being lis­tened to or signs of dete­ri­o­ra­tion are occur­ring in the patient’s con­di­tion with­out ade­quate expla­na­tion or attention.

    Your engage­ment as a patient or fam­ily mem­ber is key to keep­ing safe.  We have cre­ated a num­ber of tools and resources on this site to help you in that mis­sion.  You may wish to look at our take on what patients and fam­i­lies want in their hos­pi­tal expe­ri­ence. This is what we have been con­sis­tently told by patients and fam­i­lies around the world.  It is the cor­ner­stone of hos­pi­tal prac­tices that are patient and fam­ily engagement-friendly. 

    But even if you’re not a patient or a fam­ily mem­ber, you have a stake in stop­ping this deadly, and costly, epi­demic of harm. One way or another, we all pay the costs of med­ical errors — as patients and fam­i­lies, con­sumers, employ­ers and tax­pay­ers.  If we’re lucky, we’ll just pay in higher health insur­ance pre­mi­ums and increased taxes. Med­ical errors in hos­pi­tals add tens of bil­lions of dol­lars to health­care bills every year.  Some actu­ar­ial experts have put the total fig­ure, includ­ing direct and indi­rect costs, at closer to one tril­lion dol­lars annu­ally. But the sad fact is that too many of us pay for this avoid­able epi­demic with much more than higher insur­ance pre­mi­ums and tax bills.  We pay for it with the lives of our loved ones and the dev­as­ta­tion of our families.  

    Take a look at our projects and causes. Become a cham­pion of patient safety your­self. Let us know how you would like to help. If you have a story about med­ical harm, con­sider shar­ing it.  Help pro­mote our cam­paign to make Patient  Pro­tec­tion 1st  on your web­site or blog, or on Twit­ter, Face­book and other social media.  Tell us about your ideas to end the epi­demic of hos­pi­tal harm and how we can improve our message.

    Together, we can shine a dis­in­fect­ing spot­light where it belongs: on the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the epi­demic of hos­pi­tal harm and the steps needed to end it — start­ing with what works best for patients and fam­i­lies, and by mak­ing Patient Pro­tec­tion 1st in every aspect of care.




  3. Become Pro­tected

    Become Pro­tected

    A safe patient is a pro­tected patient.  But you need to take steps as a patient or fam­ily mem­ber to ensure that protection.

    Let your health­care pro­fes­sion­als know that you expect them to fol­low every means to keep you safe. Ask ques­tions and speak up if you have any doubts about what is hap­pen­ing. If you see some­thing or feel some­thing that does not seem right, say something.  

    Know­ing some key real­i­ties of hos­pi­tal care today can help you or a fam­ily mem­ber to min­i­mize the risk of harm. The first, which many patients and fam­i­lies do not know, is that med­ical errors and infec­tions occur in hos­pi­tals every day.  They claim thou­sands of lives in the United States and Canada each year and leave many times that num­ber injured.  In fact, hos­pi­tal harm is the third lead­ing cause of death in the U.S. and Canada.  Most of this harm is avoidable. 

    You need to be espe­cially alert to the risk of infec­tions in hos­pi­tals (which take more than 100,000 lives among U.S. and Cana­dian patients every year), as well as the dan­ger of falls, pres­sure ulcers, sur­gi­cal mishaps and med­ica­tion errors. Most hos­pi­tals know what the best prac­tices are for reduc­ing these risks. You may wish to have a dis­cus­sion with your clin­i­cal care team mem­bers about what they are doing to min­i­mize them in your case. You can find more infor­ma­tion below.

    We have included a num­ber of resources, includ­ing videos, on this site to help keep patients pro­tected and to help fam­i­lies and providers to make patient pro­tec­tion first.  Here are some other help­ful links.   

    You can also check out our Ten Rea­sons for Mak­ing Patient  Pro­tec­tion 1st(SM), which sets out the kind of care you are enti­tled to expect and the best providers always deliver.

    When it comes right down to it, no patient or fam­ily can ever be expected to know all the steps that can and should be taken in their care; but they can and should expect that health­care work­ers and pro­fes­sion­als do and will.  Nor can they know all the evidenced-based rec­om­men­da­tions and best prac­tices that should be fol­lowed for their safety; but they are enti­tled to rely upon providers and pro­fes­sion­als to fol­low them.  

    Mak­ing sure that more patients and fam­i­lies insist upon a safer health­care cul­ture, and more providers respond to that call, is the dri­ving force behind the cre­ation of The Cen­ter for Patient  Pro­tec­tion and its cam­paign to make Patient  Pro­tec­tion 1st.


Even 1950s Hollywood Knew About Medical Errors

What Do Patients and Families Want?

What do patients and families want when it comes to healthcare, and, especially, during a hospital stay? The Center for Patient  Protection believes that is a question that needs to occupy the attention of more healthcare providers and professionals. 

We spoke with patients and families around the world, sought the views of renowned experts, and studied thousands of pages of patient safety literature in the field.  When it comes right down to it, what patients and families want is really quite simple. Above all, they want patient safety, first, last and always.  More ...

Our Top 10 List

Why Patients and Families Need Patient Protection 1stSM

Reason # 10

It’s not just a patient in that bed. It's a sacred trust.

Reason # 9

Hospital-acquired infections never send a calling card before they show up in a patient’s room. But patients and families will always know after they’ve arrived.


From Hospital Harm to Healing Virtues


Lorraine Finlay Healing Healthcare Virtues(sm)The Cen­ter is guided in every­thing we do by what we call The Lor­raine Fin­lay  Heal­ing Health­care Virtues of Pru­dence, Hope, Respect, Com­pas­sion, Patience, Dili­gence, Integrity, Open­ness, Fair­ness, Kind­ness towards all. They are named after the mother of The Center's founder, who experienced more documented medical errors during her six-month hospitalization than any patient in the history of patient safety literature. These are the val­ues that per­sonal expe­ri­ence, research and con­ver­sa­tions with patients and fam­i­lies around the world have told us are piv­otal in deliv­er­ing safer, more affirm­ing care. Read full story...


Read Our Snapshots of Hospital Harm


See more snapshots of harm...



Anatomy of Harm

A Regular Series that Looks at the Most Common Forms of Medical Injury


Confusing, inconsistent and frequently opaque hospital DNR practices lead to tragic medical errors and needless family distress.  They need serious reform and strong consequences when the wishes of family members are ignored.  Read more.... 


Of all the serious types of hospital harm, pressure ulcers form the largest single category.  They injure more than 2.5 million patients in U.S. and Canadian hospitals each year,  Read more...

Latest from Kathleen's Blog

Touchstones for Patient Safety