5 Keys to Achieving Hospital Patient Safety Goals in 2016
Patient safety is the backbone of healthcare. Every action must keep the patient’s safety in mind. Yet, because healthcare organizations are staffed by human beings, mistakes will still happen. The Joint Commission’s latest safety goals seem straightforward and include steps such as using two ways to identify every patient, identifying risks such as suicide, and following established, proven procedures for hand-washing, catheterization and other infection preventions.
These procedures will do little, however, if the organization doesn’t instill a respect and priority for safety within its culture. Healthcare HR can play a leading role in helping organizations reach their patient safety goals. Here are five tips to strengthen your patient safety initiatives.
Make It Part of the Culture
It’s easy to say that safety plays a strong role in your organizational culture, but is it true? Punitive cultures that don’t leave room for learning can create atmospheres where people are afraid to correct each other or speak up when something isn’t safe. “It’s critically important for leadership to create an open, fair and just culture,” says Eric Dethlefs, President and CEO of Cassatt, a risk retention group owned by hospital systems. Doing so will support learning and promote system improvements, rather than simply discipline.
Don’t Hide Results
Nobody likes bad news, but it’s important to communicate about your safety results, no matter what they are. “Healthcare organizations can best build a culture of safety by first creating absolute clarity on the most important safety results,” says Dustin Staley, Director for Partners In Leadership’s Healthcare Division. Doing so can help show that the organization is dedicated to improvement.
Then, leaders need to communicate the “why” behind those results, Staley says. That means talking about why the results are important and why everyone’s contribution is critical. When employees understand that better, they can see themselves as part of the solution instead of part of the problem. “With this foundation, leaders can, through specific experiences, start to align the way employees think in order to drive the right actions and, ultimately, the right outcomes.”
Don’t Let Change Derail Safety Efforts
Many organizations scurry to make changes and improvements after they see their safety scores, and patient safety shoots to the top of everyone’s priority list. The problem is, shifting priorities can make safety drop down the list again, lost behind other business issues, until another unfavorable report comes out. “Hospital leaders must make safety a sustained, primary organizational value,” Dethlefs says. “Leaders frequently cite safety as a priority, but priorities change over time, and patient safety is too important to take a back seat when organizational priorities shift.”
Change in the form of new leadership or an upcoming merger can be distracting and stressful, leading people to make more mistakes. Dedicate resources and communication to sustained safety efforts throughout the year and especially during the ups and downs of the business, rather than when things are “calmer.”
Strong learning and development programs that educate employees about the latest findings and procedures can help keep errors down and ensure employees understand the importance of patient safety efforts. “Human resource leaders must protect this learning culture and help develop managerial competencies to promote it,” Dethlefs says. Putting together an employee development program helps ensure everyone is kept up-to-date on the newest information around patient safety.
Join a PSO
Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) can provide data-based insights into errors, causes of errors and consequences that can help healthcare providers analyze their own procedures and make improvements in the form of a Patient Safety Evaluation System (PSES). “The PSES allows providers to evaluate systems and processes in a protected, confidential environment that promotes their ability to determine what actually caused failures and prevent their recurrence,” Dethlefs says. The PSES also allows information sharing among healthcare providers who are members of the PSO.
Patient safety doesn’t just happen. It takes education, support and a cultural shift to ensure that everyone is willing and able to make every patient’s experience as safe as it can be. Prioritizing safety and ensuring everyone understands what’s at stake can help your organization reach its patient safety goals.