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Eleven Worthy Aims for Clinical Leadership of Health System Reform

Donald M. Berwick, MD
JAMA. 1994;272(10):797-802. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520100059034.
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Clinicians ought to be playing a central role in making the changes in the health care system that will allow the system to offer better outcomes, greater ease of use, lower cost, and more social justice in health status. Instead, most of the proposed changes that are today called "health care reform" are actually changes in the surroundings of care rather than changes in the care itself. Clinicians have an opportunity to exercise leadership for the improvement of care, but they must first agree to address the aims of reform and to adopt an agenda of specific changes in their own work that are likely to meet the social needs driving the reform movement. Health services research offers a sound scientific basis for identifying promising improvement aims for clinician-led reform. Eleven plausible aims are these: (1) reducing inappropriate surgery, hospital admissions, and diagnostic tests; (2) reducing key underlying root causes of illness (especially smoking, handgun violence, preventable childhood injuries, and alcohol and cocaine abuse); (3) reducing cesarean section rates to pre-1980 levels; (4) reducing the use of unwanted medical procedures at the end of life; (5) simplifying pharmaceutical use, especially for antibiotics and medication of the elderly; (6) increasing active patient participation in therapeutic decision making; (7) decreasing waiting times in health care settings; (8) reducing inventory levels in health care organizations; (9) recording only useful information only once; (10) consolidating and reducing the total supply of high-technology medical and surgical care; and (11) reducing the racial gap in infant mortality and low birth weight. Health care professions and their professional organizations in concert should embrace these 11 aims, establish measurements of progress toward them, and commit to continuous and fundamental changes in their pursuit.

(JAMA. 1994;272:797-802)

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