7 Ways to Improve Patient Safety

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By Sarah Lisovich

While there’s been significant improvement in overall patient safety in the in-patient hospital setting, there’s still much work to be done. According to the National Patient Safety Foundation, though many interventions have proven effective, many more have been ineffective, and some promising interventions have important questions still unresolved. The health care system continues to operate with a low degree of reliability, meaning that patients frequently experience harms that could have been prevented or mitigated.

Here are seven ways your hospital can better improve your patient safety.

1. Fall Prevention

95% of hip fractures are the result of a fall, which can even end in traumatic brain injuries. Estimates show that over one million patients are predicted to fall in hospitals alone across the North America. Fall prevention is not only dangerous but costly to healthcare providers too. Initiatives such as the “Healthy People 2010” program created by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the “Healthy People 2020” campaign encourage patient awareness about how patients may prevent falls, their rights, and your responsibilities when it comes to falls. Fall prevention education is an important first step but there is also available equipment to aid in security. Hospitals and care centers can equip their facilities with handrails, fall monitors, and adequate lighting and signage for optimal security.

2. Hand Hygiene Accessibility

80% of communicable disease is spread through touch. Hand contact includes touching food, surfaces, and sensitive parts of the face including eyes, mouth, and nose. Touching the face with contaminated hands encourages the spreading of pneumonia, the cold, the flu, and other illnesses. Although the World Health Organization, the Joint Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all stress the importance of hand hygiene, studies show that only 67% of people practice hand hygiene. Doctors and nurses must stress the importance of this practice. Including hand hygiene initiatives that explain how and when to keep hands clean will significantly improve hygiene and health safety. Health care environments should have easy access to hand sanitizers, alcohol-based rub, and gloves available. In addition, it is important to ensure that compliance is monitored.

3. Checklists for Operations

In 2008, the World Health Organization created a surgical safety checklist intended to reduce surgical complications and mortality rates, and it worked. The checklist encourages more communication between the surgical team to confirm information about the patient and the operation such as the patient’s identity, type of procedure and the site, any precautions or anticipated issues, administration of antibiotic prophylaxis and final sponge count. While this information may seem clear, errors are more common than anticipated. As mistakes may occur both inside and outside the operating room, it is imperative that your team comes up with a cohesive and reliant check for all operations. 

4. Verify Patient Understanding

A common point of misunderstanding between patient and doctor is through drug abbreviations. This can be avoided by using computerized physician order entry systems on top of doctor and patient education. Make certain that your patient understands the necessary dosage of their medication and give ample time to hear out any other questions or concerns. Opening up channels of communication can also prevent misguided diagnoses and help healthcare workers find the true issue at hand for best service and improve patient safety.

5. Reduce infections

Health care facilities must be clean and safe spaces. However, infections do arise when precautions are not taken and protocols are not put in place. For example, catheter-related urinary tract infections are of the most common type of healthcare-associated infection. This is due either to inappropriate placement of the catheter, or because they are left in too long. There are a number of ways to implement a system to check that catheter insertion is done properly and in a timely manner. Those taking care of patients should be reminded daily, for instance. Electronic systems can be beneficial in these cases.

6. Consistent note taking and communication

When talking to your patient, make certain you cover all basis such as family health history and any allergies in the same place across medical records. Always be sure to note any medications the patient is taking and gather a current problem list. Be diligent and organized in taking notes and make certain that all necessary forms were filled out. Continue communication following the visit by giving the patient all necessary information including negative, normal or healthy results.

7. Barrier Protection

When coming into contact with potentially infectious sites, health workers must protect themselves with gowns, gloves, and other barriers. All tools must be disposable and health workers should practice and encourage hand hygiene practices following such checkup. These practices have been shown to reduce the 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections that spread in America every year.

Sarah Lisovich is a Chicago-based Health IT strategist at CIA Medical. With over twenty years’ association with various health care IT vendors and the impact of various systems on medical practices, Ms. Lisovich explores the revolutionary world of healthcare technology in the hope of opening doors to those interested in the field by building an online community.