Northwest Patient Safety Conference

Curated annually by the WPSC, the Northwest Patient Safety Conference is the only event of its kind in the Western US, uniting healthcare professionals, providers, patients, families, and caregivers from all care settings for a day of networking and engaging in sessions with industry thought leaders and others invested in improving the patient experience.




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Washington Patient Safety Coalition’s Northwest Patient Safety Conference is back May 7, 2019 at the DoubleTree Seattle Airport with a full day of sessions around the theme Raising the Bar on Compassion for Patients and Providers.

The event will include breakout sessions covering topics of empathetic engagement with patients, compassionate care for caregivers, innovations in improving diagnoses, a special track on communication & resolution implementation following adverse events, and more, with each talk introduced by a first-hand patient story.


+ Morning Keynote | Dr. Bryan Sexton, Duke University: Burnout Solutions, Interventions & the Predictive Power of Feeling Supported When Things Go Wrong

+ Afternoon Plenary | Dr. Michael Goldberg, Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare | Interactive Talk and Q&A: Towards a More Compassionate Workplace

+ Closing Sessions | Mark Graber & Sue Sheridan, Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM): Addressing Diagnostic Error: It’s a Team Sport + Diagnostic Error: Patients are the Answer!

+ Interactive morning breakouts with industry thought leaders related to the year’s theme, covering communication & resolution, diagnostic improvement, patient engagement, burnout prevention, and more

+ Annual ceremony of Comagine (formerly Qualis) Health Spotlight on Innovative Improvements Awards

+ Poster gallery featuring patient safety efforts in local care settings

+ Continental breakfast and plated lunch

+ Eligibility for 6 CNE, CME, and CPHQ credits

+ Agenda (subject to change)



This year we are offering a wide variety of Sponsorship Packages. Sponsorship is fully customizable. If you don’t see exactly what your organization is hoping for here, just contact Steve and Emily to work with us on a customized package.



See the 2019 Call for Speakers & Posters here.
While the speaker deadline has passed, the poster deadline hasn’t!
Poster Deadline: April 25, 2019


Now seeking interested volunteers to help out. Volunteers get free attendance, lunch, and the opportunity to sit in on sessions and network with fellow healthcare professionals. This year, volunteers need to be able to arrive by 6:30am and stay until at least 12:30. Alternatively, we could use a couple of afternoon volunteers to go from 1:15 – 4:45. Interested parties should email Emily Wittenhagen @ Thank you!




Scroll through the gallery to view some highlights of the most recent conference.

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  • + Morning Keynote | Michelle Mello, PhD, JD, presenting: Insights from Patients: The Future of Communication & Resolution
  • + Afternoon Plenary | Room Circus founder Linda Severt and Peter Pitofsky, a 7-time guest on Jay Leno, presenting Laughter as Medicine: The Benefit of Therapeutic Medical Clowning
    + Closing Session | Mindfulness Northwest: Stress Resilience and Burnout Prevention for Healthcare Professionals
  • + Engaging, interactive morning and afternoon sessions with industry thought leaders related to this year’s theme
  • + Poster (and patient art!) gallery featuring patient safety efforts in local care settings and art by patients
  • + Annual ceremony of Qualis Health Awards for Excellence in Healthcare Quality
  • + Continental breakfast and plated lunch
  • + Eligibility for 6 CNE/CPHQ credits 



Presenting this year’s theme: Propelling Patient Safety Into the Future. At a time when the healthcare landscape is rapidly changing, the value of the patient experience must not be lost. This unique event will unite medical professionals, patients, and students for a day of networking and learning around this theme. All those concerned with embracing modern healthcare innovations while maintaining the sacredness of the patient experience are invited to join May 1st for a day of networking with a like-minded audience and engaging in sessions with industry thought leaders. See the first iteration of the day’s agenda here!






Michelle Mello, PhD, JD is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine. She conducts empirical research into issues at the intersection of law, ethics, and health policy. She is the author of more than 170 articles and book chapters on the medical malpractice system, medical errors and patient safety, public health law, pharmaceuticals, biomedical research ethics and governance, obesity policy, and other topics. The recipient of a number of awards for her research, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly called the Institute of Medicine) at the age of 40.

From 2000 to 2014, Dr. Mello was a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she directed the School’s Program in Law and Public Health. She has also served as a Lab Fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Dr. Mello teaches courses in torts and public health law. She holds a J.D. from the Yale Law School, a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.Phil. from Oxford University, where she was a Marshall Scholar, and a B.A. from Stanford University.




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The nationally-renowned performers of Room Circus will be joining us for the post-lunch spot for a dose of laughter, education, and demonstration on the fascinating art and patient-centered power of Medical Clowning.

Room Circus founder and Parents’ Choice award-winner Linda Severt and Peter Pitofsky, a 7-time guest on Jay Leno, will share a presentation on Laughter as Medicine: The Benefit of Therapeutic Medical Clowning, followed by a demonstration.

In Linda’s words: What Room Circus brings to Patient Safety is relief from pain, stress, and anxiety. Medical Clowning can reduce cortisol levels and recovery time and increase endorphins, coping skills, and immune function. Numerous studies have documented that professional Medical Clowns provide measurable clinical benefits for pediatric and memory-care patients. In addition, Medical Clowning helps build trust between physicians and patients, especially when a patient is feeling frightened or in pain, and has been shown to have positive clinical outcomes. Room Circus clowns create a circle of trust that encompasses everyone in the room – providers, families, patients and staff.


Best Poster Winners - Harborview Med
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Our keynote speaker for the 2017 Northwest Patient Safety Conference was Dr. David Classen, Chief Medical Information Officer for Pascal Metrics. Dr. Classen is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah and a Active Consultant in Infectious Diseases at The University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Classen is an expert in Health IT, with notable work including:


    • Member of the Institute of Medicine Committee (IOM) that developed the National Healthcare Quality Report
    • Member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Patient Safety Data Standards
    • Chaired the QUIC (Federal Safety Taskforce)/IHI Collaborative on Improving Safety in High Hazard Areas
    • Co-Chaired the Institute of Healthcare Improvements Collaborative on Perioperative Safety and the Surgical Safety Collaborative
    • Faculty member of the IHI/National Health Foundation Safer Patients Initiative in the United Kingdom
    • Developer of the “Trigger Tool Methodology” at IHI, used for the improved detection of adverse events, currently being used by more than 500 different healthcare organizations through out the Unites States and Europe
    • Co-chairs the National Quality Forum’s Patient Safety Common Formats Committee
    • Developed and implemented the CPOE/EMR flight simulator for the Leapfrog Group and National Quality Forum which has been funded and overseen by AHRQ

Dr. Classen’s keynote focused on increased use of Health IT (HIT) for patient safety needs. A report from the Institute of Medicine called HIT and Patient Safety  suggests that although improving safety was a justification for the adoption of Health IT, so far that goal had largely been unmet despite the potential for improving patient safety with this technology. However, we are finally seeing the emergence of ways in which HIT can transform patient safety programs from retrospective approaches based on voluntary reporting to prospective approaches that can identify safety problems in real time and even predict them before they occur. These exciting developments have occurred broadly across health systems and HIT vendors, to the point that CMS has decided to create a new safety measure leveraging Electronic Health Records. This presentation covered these new approaches, including sharing this type of real time safety and predictive information with providers and patients as a way to prevent safety problems before they occur.



Our plenary speaker was Dorothy Frost Teeter. Governor Jay Inslee appointed Dorothy Frost Teeter as Director of the Health Care Authority (HCA) in 2013. The HCA leverages $10 billion dollars annually to purchase high quality, affordable health care for more than two million public employees and Apple Health (Medicaid) clients.

Dorothy has 30+ years of extensive experience leading public and private health system transformation at the local, state, and national level. She believes that patient-focused innovation in purchasing, care delivery reform, and population health partnerships, leads to better health and better care at lower cost.

As HCA director, she led Washington State’s successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, expanding Apple Health coverage to an additional 600,000 Washington residents since 2013. She also oversees an ambitious plan to enhance the state’s approach to worksite wellness and led a successful statewide planning effort that resulted in a $65 million Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) award in late 2014.

Before joining HCA, Dorothy served as a senior advisor at CMMI in Baltimore. She also has worked in senior executive roles at Public Health – Seattle & King County; Group Health Cooperative; and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Washington. Dorothy is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health Department of Health Services. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College and a Master of Health Services Administration from the University of Washington. She serves on the boards of the Washington State Health Benefits Exchange, the Washington Health Alliance, and the Pacific Business Group on Health and is a guiding committee member of the national Health Care Payment Leadership Action Network.




This interactive session was presented and hosted by Dr. Tom Gallagher. Dr. Gallagher is a general internist who is a Professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington. Tom’s research addresses the interfaces between healthcare quality, communication, and transparency. Dr. Gallagher has published over 85 articles and book chapters on patient safety and error disclosure, which have appeared in leading journals including JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, Health Affairs, Surgery, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Archives of Internal Medicine, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and the Joint Commission Journal.


See the full Speaker Roster here.




      • Nancy Fisher, our region’s Chief Medical Officer for CMS, focused on mapping health disparities based on income, race, ethnicity, education and living environments and designing ways that harmonize with efforts to improve patient safety.
      • Lisa Packard, Quality Improvement Consultant at Qualis Health, focused on the unique challenges that diabetes poses for tribal communities and ways of reducing these inequities.
      • & more from healthcare leaders Randy Moseley, David Allison, Jimi Bush, Selena Bolotin on overdiagnosis, rural health, the patient-provider relationshipcommunity-based care, treating complex patient populations, and the transitioning landscapes in local and national healthcare.




      • Ginny Weir, Program Director for the Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative, led a panel discussion on alternative payment models and value-based purchasing, considered one of the cornerstones of healthcare transformation both regionally and nationally.
      • Bruce Nitsche of Virginia Mason gave a short, TEDTalk style presentation on educating care teams on patient safety topics using video media.
      • Sue Merk of One Health Port gave a short, TEDTalk style presentation on new opportunities with medical data and patient safety through Washington State’s Health Information Exchange.








Scherer Picture

We were pleased to host our keynote speaker for the 2016 Northwest Patient Safety Conference, John Scherer.

As a former Combat Officer on a US Navy Destroyer, Lutheran Chaplain at Cornell University, Gestalt and Family Systems Therapist, Graduate School co-creator, author, successful consultant and entrepreneur, John brings a unique perspective to his life and work. Business and community leaders from 23 nations have graduated from his Executive and Leadership Development Intensives.

John was Co-developer of The People Performance Profile, the first holistic, computer-scored diagnostic process for improving organizational effectiveness. His Breakthrough Series was the first video-based resource for high-performance team-development, designed to be used at regular meetings.


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We were pleased to introduce our plenary speaker, Patty Skolnik. Driven by harrowing real-life experience, Patty Skolnik is a patient safety educator and an advocate for Shared Decision-Making, Informed Consent, Dignity for the Patient and Provider and Patient and Provider Relationships in healthcare. She founded Citizens for Patient Safety to promote those conversations in healthcare settings that are proven to reduce medical harm. Patty travels worldwide to educate consumers, train medical professionals, and advise lawmakers. Having lost her only son Michael to poor and lacking communication, Ms. Skolnik promised him that she would make the medical profession better than he had found it – her work through Citizens for Patient Safety is that promise in action.

Ms. Skolnik sits on the National Advisory Council for AHRQ, on the Board of Advisors for the National Patient Safety Foundation, the National Quality & Patient Advisory Council for MedStar Health System, the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project and the Board of Directors for the Patient Voice Institute.



The conference agenda also included a two-hour workshop on shared decision making (SDM), a key pathway to safe, patient-centered care. Diana Stilwell,  Vice President of Shared Decision Making Solution Strategy at Healthwise,  and Dr. Larry Morrisey of Central Pediatrics illustrated the connection between SDM and patient safety. They focused on how this strategy can help you deliver the right care to the right patient at the right time. Attendees also gained some pragmatic tools to help them put SDM in action in their own practice. Whether attendees were new to shared decision making or were already looking to implement this strategy, they were given the chance to gain invaluable knowledge about the importance of engaging patients in an SDM experience and how to make SDM a reality in their organizations.







Wyatt Picture

Our keynote speaker was Ronald Wyatt, MD, MHA, medical director in the Division of Healthcare Improvement at The Joint Commission. Dr. Wyatt promotes quality improvement and patient safety to internal and external audiences, works to influence public policy and legislation for patient safety improvements, and serves as the lead patient safety information and education resource within The Joint Commission. Dr. Wyatt collaborates in the development of National Patient Safety Goals, and oversees data management and analyses related to the Sentinel Event database. Dr. Wyatt actively presents on a variety of patient safety topics throughout the US and Canada. He has written and published numerous articles on patient safety topics.

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Our plenary speaker was Tiffany Christensen,  who speaks from the perspective of a life-long patient and a professional patient advocate. She is a TeamSTEPPS Master Trainer, a Respecting Choices Advance Care Planning Instructor, an APPEAL certificate recipient, and the creator of her own Train the Trainer workshop series entitled “Finding Your Voice in the Healthcare Maze.”Christensen is a nationally recognized public speaker and the author of three books exploring advocacy, end of life planning and partnership strategies in healthcare. She is a board member of the Beryl Institute for improving the patient experience and is faculty for the Patient Safety Officer Training at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.Christensen worked as the Program Coordinator for Duke Medicine’s Patient Advisory Council Expansion Program in which she was responsible for design and implementation of a standardized PFAC model and training. Christensen succeeded in implementing this model in many clinical specialty areas, the Emergency Department, Hospice and two community hospitals. During this time, Tiffany was also patient advocate at Duke Hospital working primarily in the area of Oncology.Currently, Tiffany is the Performance Improvement Specialist at the North Carolina Quality Center, working on operationalizing PFE across North Carolina. You can visit Tiffany’s website at or follow her latest adventures on the new blog Selected Past Conference Materials


The 13th Northwest Patient Safety Conference was held on May 13, 2015 and was attended by over 200 individuals from across the region.

Our 13th regional conference addressed critical patient safety themes, including meaningful engagement of patients and families in their care, and improving communication between health care providers. Presentations by nationally-recognized speakers, breakout discussions in workshop formats, high-intensity presentations and discussions, a poster session, and networking opportunities – all of these provided a full-day event and tools and methods that could be quickly put to use in participants’ care settings.



“Great job- this was an excellent conference. I am happy I had the opportunity to attend. I am inspired!”

“One of the best! This has been a stimulating day from keynote to breakout to posters.”

“I plan to discuss the information with my colleagues to use region-wide”

“Thank you for providing this annual opportunity for learning and networking.”

“I plan to apply PFAC model and improve PFAC. Also use new communication strategies for ALL hospital staff.”

“I will push to have patient advocate/ representative in the RCA process.”

“The high intensity talks were very stimulating and thought providing.”

“I liked the intense sessions with discussion at the table. Very good exchange of ideas.”

“Best conference ever- great speakers!”

“Great poster viewing- made some great connections to enhance my work.”