Voicing a Silent Epidemic

Blood clots cause the world’s top three cardiovascular killers, and they are the leading cause of preventable death during a hospital stay. Altogether, blood clots kill more people each year than AIDS, breast cancer and car crashes combined.

Continuing our discussion on accreditation and uniform health standards in our globalized world, regulatory agencies around the world often take blood clots as signals that safety and quality measures are lacking.

As our global affiliates strive to earn international accreditation—and use that accreditation to become role models for safety in their regions—eliminating blood clots and other avoidable risks for patient harm becomes an important focus.

As we work with health systems worldwide to improve clinical quality, enhance safety efforts and train staff to create a secure environment for care, we often rely on experts and resources from the Johns Hopkins’ Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

Among the Armstrong Institute’s many improvement and research projects is its Venous Thromboembolism Collaborative. The group offers consultation on preventing blood clots by identifying patient risks; sharing relevant research from Johns Hopkins experts; and providing patient education resources, including videos and handouts in multiple languages.

One of those experts, hematologist Michael B. Streiff, traveled to Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare last year to present a well-attended public lecture on preventing and treating blood clots, which he calls “a silent epidemic.” He stressed that blood clots are, in fact, a serious medical problem—and can even result in sudden death if they move into a person’s lungs. Streiff also shared information on how to prevent blood clots during hospitalization and everyday life.

Another expert on the effects and avoidance of blood clots, Elliott R. Haut, JHM surgeon and vice chair of quality, safety and service, published research on how regulatory agencies like the Joint Commission International can revise their policies to continue to raise the standards of blood clot prevention. He recommends changing the frequency of administering preventive medications, tracking those dosages closely using electronic medical records, and providing special training for nurses and patients to ensure every dose of prescribed medication is offered and accepted.

Across Johns Hopkins, we conduct this kind of probing, practical research—and share solutions with clinicians, industry leaders, policymakers and patients to reduce suffering and save lives around the world.