Top 5 Considerations for Patient Safety
Patient Safety Awareness Week is around the corner on March 12-18, 2023! This is a time to promote best practices in patient safety, educate all who contribute to patient safety, and reflect on internal policies to ensure healthcare organizations are providing the best possible care for patients.
Patient Safety Awareness Week was first observed in 2002 by the National Patient Safety Foundation, which merged with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in 2017.
Patient safety is defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as “freedom from accidental or preventable injuries produced by medical care.” As many as 400,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors or preventable harm, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.
Let’s celebrate Patient Safety Awareness Week by reviewing five categories that are central to the safety of your patients.
1. Hygienic Practices
It’s unsurprising that hygienic practices top the list. These often simple precautions and procedures ensure an environment that does not foster the spread of disease, bacteria, or other germs. According to the CDC, as much as 80% of infections are spread by hands, so washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer, when entering and exiting patient rooms is extremely important. Gloves can also reduce hand contamination by as much as 70-80%.
It's important to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) correctly to achieve basic infection control. Keeping patients’ rooms clean, by moving from cleaner surfaces to frequently touched surfaces and working from the top down, also helps to reduce the spread of germs.
Proper communication saves lives. Miscommunication among a healthcare team, including doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and anyone else on staff involved in a patient’s care can lead to costly and unnecessary mistakes. Ensure your organization has consistent procedures in place to keep everyone on the team notified at each step of the patient’s care journey.
Communicate with your patient too. According to this survey by the Mayo Clinic, only 42% of patients were able to name their diagnosis or diagnoses upon leaving the hospital. An informed patient is better able to participate in their own care and alert staff if there is a problem. Asking patients to repeat the information you’ve told them back to you is one way to make certain they fully understand their condition and treatment.
Keeping caregivers informed also adds an additional layer of protection for the patient. They can aid in the patient’s care and recovery once the patient is released to go home. They can help ensure the patient is following all instructions, taking the right medications at the proper intervals, and they’re often the voice of the patient when something doesn’t seem right.
Improving the technology at your organization can aid in everything from painless appointment scheduling to monitoring patients. A quality scheduling protocol can reduce wait times and help ensure patients are seen quickly and by the appropriate provider. Monitoring tools, like barcodes scanners for patient bracelets, medication, and charts, make certain that care staff is providing the correct services to the correct patients. Healthcare facilities can even utilize technology such as UV-C lights to maintain a cleaner environment, which disinfects through the use of ultraviolet light.
4. Patient Safety Organizations
Healthcare providers may opt to work with a Patient Safety Organization (PSO). Established by the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005, these organizations analyze healthcare providers’ voluntarily reported data to evaluate patient safety and provide feedback and recommendations to make improvements at the healthcare facility.
Lastly, your healthcare staff is an integral part of patient safety. Maintain appropriate staffing to avoid long shifts and reduce exhaustion. Fatigue can cause decreased awareness and degraded performance, which increases the likelihood of mistakes.
Offer regular training and continuing education opportunities to make sure your staff remains knowledgeable of the latest developments and technologies available in their field.
Take the appropriate steps to make sure you have the best staff possible working with your vulnerable populations. This means verifying licenses and making sure they stay up to date, conducting background checks including criminal history and continuous monitoring, exclusion & sanction screening, drug testing, and more.
This Patient Safety Awareness Week, contact PreCheck to build a background screening program that keeps your patients safe.