Patient-centered Safety and Quality in healthcare is Beth’s passion and she works tirelessly to reduce harm, engage leaders and create the quality healthcare that she knows each patient deserves and each provider strives to create.
Beth Daley Ullem’s journey into the world of safety and quality came unexpectedly in 2003 when she and her husband lost their infant son, Michael, to medical error. As a result of his poor care, he was born severely brain damaged and they eventually took him off life support.
The care Michael received caused an error that had happened repeatedly in prior years at the hospital. The harm had not been attended to as an opportunity for learning and improvement. Overwhelmed by loss of a healthy son and the lack of learning and improvement after her loss, Beth changed the course of her life’s work to dedicate her time and energy to improve quality and safety in healthcare and reduce preventable harm so that other families would not have to face the anguish of loss from medical error.
After their loss, Beth also did not expect the culture of deny and defend. She found it insulting and a barrier to improvement in hospitals. Beth knew that there had to be a better way to have difficult conversations and honest transparency after a harm event – conversations and processes that would encourage, not impede learning and healing. Beth became a passionate advocate for transparency after harm and having timely, active conversations with patients who are harmed.
Beth and her husband donated the entire legal settlement to a fund to advance innovations in safety and quality. They have funded many innovative efforts to support and advance safety, reduce harm and have learning and transparency when harm does occur.
Early on, Beth felt it was important to share their story to inspire healthcare leaders to see the depth of impact from medical error and ask them to commit more deeply to learning and improvement after harm. A former McKinsey consultant with an MBA and a background in corporate strategy, Beth is not your typical patient advocate. In her public speaking, Beth connects the dots with her own loss to the broader strategic challenges in health care impeding safety. Beth has spoken to hundreds of audiences about her story, the structural and strategic challenges in healthcare facing safety and spreading the exciting innovation in safety and leadership.
National Leadership in Board Education
There were some areas were Beth thought hospital leaders needed better, more tangible solutions that existed in the market. One of those areas was Board Education and Leadership on Safety and Quality. Beth was not satisfied with the status quo, so she worked to create higher standards and innovation in hospital board education. She supported Solutions for Patient Safety, a 140+ hospital pediatric network to build a new board education program in quality and safety that is widely considered one of the leading board education programs in the country. Beth has subsequently worked to advance safety and quality in the boardroom through leadership education at conferences and directly with other national organizations, state associations, major insurers and hospital systems. Beth has led an innovation wave for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Lucien Leape Institute to build a national best practice for health system board quality work and built innovative research and surveys to advance the field of governance in quality.
National Leadership in Healthcare Quality
Beth serves on the Board of Catalysis, formerly the Thedacare Center for Healthcare Value, and is a strong advocate for improving healthcare payment and care delivery to incorporate quality and value. Beth also serves on the Board of Solutions for Patient Safety, a 144 hospital network committed to improving pediatric safety. Beth also formerly served on the Advisory Board of the National Patient Safety Foundation. Beth also serves on the advisory board of the Medstar Institute for Quality and has served on a number of national efforts to create standards for higher quality and patient engagement in care and research. Beth has worked tirelessly to make patient-centered safe and quality care a tenet for all health systems and caregivers in our country.