5 Ways to Improve Patient Safety in Hospitals

Over the past 15 years, patient safety has become a driving issue for hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country. On March 13th – 19th, we recognize Patient Safety Awareness Week, which is a time to educate both healthcare professionals and the general public about how to improve patient safety and the impact it has on quality healthcare. Below are 5 ways hospitals can improve patient safety:

1. Follow low-infection prevention guidelines. Certain actions outlined in low-infection prevention guidelines can reduce the rate of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by 50%. For example, just by washing hands thoroughly before every patient interaction, healthcare professionals can help prevent the spread of infections like C. diff, MRSA, and urinary tract infections. There are also specific guidelines for preventing infections during common procedures such as catheterization, central line insertion, and for taking care of the surgical site.

2. Reduce unsafe injections. The reuse of injection devices is both a patient safety and quality healthcare concern. The reuse of syringes can lead to the transmission of blood-borne illnesses such as HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis. While most would think the reuse of injection equipment is a rare occurrence, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study in 2000 which found that approximately 40% of the 16 billion injections given around the world involved at least one item of reused injection equipment, leading to a startling number of new illnesses in patients – all due to the lack of proper patient safety awareness.

3. Promote surgical safety. A recent study found that 50% of surgical complications are preventable when proper safeguarding procedures take place, such as the completion of a pre-operative checklist. The pre-operative checklist is used to confirm certain facts among the healthcare team, such as the identity of the patient, the surgery site, and what kind of procedure is supposed to be performed. This checklist is also used in conjunction with a post-operative checklist which, among other things, helps to confirm the correct sponge count before and after the operation. Medicare’s Hospital Compare website allows patients to find out which hospitals in their area use pre-operative checklists before performing surgery.

4. Do not use drug abbreviations. In 2004, the Joint Commission issued a ban on the use of certain abbreviations for prescription and medication instructions due to the high amount of misread or misunderstood abbreviations. However, abbreviations still lead to approximately 15,000 medication and prescription errors per year. Strict adherence to the official “Do Not Use” list has reduced medication errors, while the advent of EMRs and computer ordering has led to a further decrease in errors.

5. Get engaged with patients. Patient safety is not entirely up to healthcare professionals – patients themselves are urged to take an active role in their own healthcare to ensure they understand the risks and benefits of the therapeutic strategies they’re being given. Language barriers and low health literacy can hinder this understanding, but hospitals can help address these issues through improved translation services and patient education. But even patients who do not have these problems are sometimes too intimidated to speak up about their care. To help solve this problem and improve patient safety, the Joint Commission has launched a number of Speak Up initiatives and campaigns to give patients the tools to advocate for themselves in healthcare settings.

Download this free eBook, Patient Safety: The Past, the Present, and Future, for more information about patient safety and improving patient outcomes.

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