Can Compexity Science Help Improve Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety

Kevin J. O'Leary 

Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, April 18 2012, Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Prof. Kevin J. O'Leary , Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


Despite a decade of intense effort, patients do not consistently receive recommended care and continue to be at risk for preventable harm. Based on work originating outside of healthcare, quality and patient safety experts have emphasized the need to understand how systems factors facilitate errors in healthcare delivery. More recently, healthcare leaders have attempted to learn from high reliability organizations, which operate in complex, hazardous environments yet maintain exceptional performance over time. While these models have clearly advanced our understanding, they appear to underestimate the complexity of healthcare systems. Complexity science may provide for a deeper understanding of healthcare systems and help improve patient care.


Kevin J. O’Leary, MD, MS is Associate Professor of Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He serves as Associate Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine, Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program and Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine for Quality. He also serves as the Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety Course Director for third year medical students and Competency Director for Systems Awareness and Team-based Care. His primary research interest is patient safety and interprofessional collaboration in acute care settings. More information can be found at