How Art Led to Safer Patient Care

As Patient Safety Week begins today, I think about how my passion for art has led to my passion for safer patient care.

Twenty-five years ago I began my career as a certified medical illustrator. Working alongside litigators in malpractice cases, it was my job to explain to juries, through my drawings, how a patient was either put at risk or treated with the safest standards. In all these cases, at the heart of the discussion was the simple question: what was best for the patient?

As someone who worked across many health systems and clinicians, it didn’t take long to realize I was, in a way, aggregating national risk data. I found myself drawing the same issues time and time again, always feeling horribly about these adverse outcomes, and curious about how they could have been avoided.

This is how APS began. I decided to do something to contribute toward ending unnecessary error and patient harm. And so began my efforts to develop a better way to educate and develop patient care teams so together we could address the persistent problems that lead to these repetitive and costly cases while doing what is best for the patient.

Our first product was CourseServer, and soon we signed up some of the country’s most forward-thinking hospitals, with leaders who shared my mission to end unnecessary patient harm. Fast forward and today we’ve re-imagined the way clinicians learn with online technology that delivers a more engaging, personalized, and flexible experience. We’ve continually innovated our products and services to integrate the latest in adult learning techniques. And we’ve introduced timely, evidence-based content that truly makes an impact in safer patient care.

But at our heart, we haven’t changed one bit. We remain steadfast in our commitment to helping healthcare organizations do what’s best for the patient. We’ve become a trusted resource for many of the country’s largest health systems as well as for smaller community hospitals seeking ways to improve patient safety in the highest risk areas.


Because together we believe that the key to improving patient safety is improving clinical knowledge and judgment. Investing in doctors and nurses by bringing them meaningful education is changing the equation.

Our clients demonstrate that targeted education improves teamwork, reduces risk, and improves clinical outcomes. As a result of personalized learning, our clients report that their teams communicate more effectively and deliver safer, more consistent care. For healthcare leaders and managers, analytics are informing protocols and data is driving results-oriented improvement decisions.

For example, one client used Relias OB (formerly GNOSIS) standardized learning in the obstetrical hemorrhage course to develop new processes for Massive Transfusion Protocols and, as a result, decreased these incidents by nearly 40%. They reduced costs, improved outcomes, and built a culture of safety founded on the team’s increase in proficiency.

And when you think about investing in our clinicians to deliver safer care, isn’t that what’s best for the patient?

John Harrington

Adaptive Learning Strategist, Relias

John co-founded APS in 1993 after completing his training as a board certified medical illustrator. He is one of fewer than two hundred board certified medical illustrators worldwide. He has acted as a courtroom expert witness in obstetrics, orthopedics, and neurology, and has been a contributing illustrator to a variety of texts along with publications including the New England Journal of Medicine, Boston Globe, Fortune Magazine, and Lawyer’s Alert. He has also presented at a range of continuing medical and legal education seminars and events throughout the country. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts from Boston University. Prior to founding APS, he was employed by Harvard Medical School. He is a Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education faculty member and a member of both the Association of Medical Illustrators and the Massachusetts Association of Trial Attorneys.

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