What quality guru Don Berwick has to say about Providence

For most people in health care, Don Berwick needs no introduction. He’s a mantel for clinical quality and patient safety in the United States, best known as the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and former administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


Quality and safety champion Don Berwick addresses members of Providence’s community ministry boards, which represent the communities we serve across five states.

This spring, he presented at the annual meeting of Providence community ministry boards and affiliated boards. What did he have to say about Providence? He affirmed that our strategic plan is on track with where health care needs to go in this country and said he was impressed with our ability to move from a collection of disparate regional operating structures to an integrated operating system.

“My objective would be to give you even more energy, if that were possible, and especially to congratulate you on the concept that you can function as a unified system, unified geographically, but also unified structurally. The idea that you have boards, managers, executives and clinicians all together on the same journey is exactly what we need,” Berwick said.

Fighting for the poor and vulnerable
I invite our caregivers to watch his full keynote address on the Providence Intranet. In the meantime, I wanted to share an excerpt that I found particularly poignant because it speaks to the urgency of transforming health care in the United States and who Providence is at our core.

“As I know Providence as a system, you have a very deep commitment to what Hubert Humphrey called the moral test. He said the moral test of government is how it treats those in the dawn of life, the children; those in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the handicapped, the disabled. I believe that he got it approximately right, except that I think this is a moral test of a nation, a moral test of the community, not just government.

But it is a test we’re subjecting to enormous stress right now. We are in danger of flunking, as we watch a backing down from what I regard as a compassionate and necessary commitment to social mission. Here at Providence, you seem to keep that in mind. I hear it in your words. I see it in your deeds. I understand you have a billion dollars of investment in community benefit and care to people who have no coverage. Bravo. But unless we get this right for the nation as a whole, I will tell you the first to pay will be the poor.” -Berwick

This is a critical point that drives home what’s at stake in health care and the whole reason Providence exists in the first place. Our strategic plan is really about becoming more innovative in the way we operate and collaborating with others so that we can continue our Mission for the future and ensure that the poor and vulnerable of our communities don’t fall through the cracks.

His parting words to us were a call to action. “If you do it, you would continue to get the thanks not just from the population of communities you serve, but of a nation that’s badly looking for an example of a sustainable, just and completely universal healthcare system that works.”

To view the entire keynote, Providence caregivers can visit the governance section of the Providence Intranet. You’ll find a link to his keynote on the right hand side. You must be logged into the Providence network.

  1. What a testament to the great work of Providence to be recognized by a national voice like Don Berwick. I loved the links he made back to our collective heritage, the spirit of the Sisters, and the care for community that we all share, regardless of whether we work at Providence, at Swedish, or at one of our other affiliated partners. We are all in this together to create healthier communities!

  2. Good Folks,
    Just finished listening to Don Berwick’s challenging and insightful address on where he understands health care needs to go in the future in America. It almost moved me to tears just knowing someone of his cailber is working for the betterment of our care system, and also sees in Providence the potential to create a model of care on a scale that could capture our national imagination. I can think of no better way of honoring our heritage than accepting Don’s challenge; he reflects my deepest hopes, in this regard.
    Duane Chase, Chaplain, PSMCC, Seward, Alaska

    • Duane and Kristina, Beautifully said. My sentiments exactly. Thanks for sharing.