3 Strategies for Improving Patient Safety

While much has been accomplished in recent years to improve patient safety, much more still needs to be done. To that end, here are three strategies for improving patient safety.

3 Strategies For Improving Patient Safety

To say that patient safety is a major focus of every hospital everywhere is like saying that water is a basic requirement for human survival.

It is both obvious and understated. In fact, a Google search for “how to improve patient safety” returns 212 million – yes, million – citations. That’s hardly surprising, though. For instance, consider that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on any given day about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.

Even worse, a study conducted last year by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and NORC at the University of Chicago reported that 21% of patients have experienced a medical error.

While much has been accomplished in recent years to improve patient safety, much more still needs to be done. To help point you in the right direction, here are three strategies for improving patient safety.

Strategy 1: Implement a Patient-Centered Care Model

Patient-centered care has quickly emerged as a primary approach to healthcare and emphasizes on partnerships between patients and healthcare professionals, which includes an acknowledgement of the patient’s preferences and values. A 2018 study published by Collegian – the Australian Journal of Nursing Practice, Scholarship, and Research – found that that “patient-centered care (in combination with evidence-based health care practices) can produce outcomes that benefit both patients and health care organizations.” These benefits include improved outcomes, cost reductions, and lower rates of hospital readmission.

So, what should you consider as part of your patient-centered care design? Patient Engagement HIT offers these fives tactics as a place to start:

  • Allow patients access to EHR data and clinician notes, which is an effective method for preventing medical record misinformation.
  • Provide better care of the hospital environment by ensuring hospital cleanliness, which protects patients from hospital-acquired conditions.
  • Create a safe patient experience by staying attentive to procedure protocol.
  • Create simple and timely appointment scheduling, which ensures patients receive care in a timely fashion.
  • Encourage family and caregiver engagement, which supports patient safety by adding yet another set of eyes looking for inaccuracies in patient care.

Strategy 2: Create Incident Reporting Feedback Loops

One critical behavior experts say will help improve quality and safety in healthcare is adopting a culture of “speaking up” about medical errors. In fact, a 2018 study published in BMC focused on this very issue after The Joint Commission predicted that 80% of serious safety lapses occur because of poor communication among healthcare providers.

The research project – which included four literature reviews, three randomized controlled trials, eight cohorts, one case control, 34 cross sectional studies, and three reports – concluded that “speaking up is one of the critical behaviors of patient safety.” So important is incident reporting that Datix has embedded tools in its patient safety software to make incident reporting, alerts, analysis, feedback, and action planning as easy as possible.

Linked to effective incident reporting is an organization’s ability to create a “just culture,” which promotes system improvements over individual punishment. However, despite efforts to move in this direction, recent research shows that the fear of punishment is still a major hurdle that must be overcome.

For instance, a 2016 study in the Journal of Nursing & Care found that, despite intensive efforts by healthcare organizations to create non-punitive reporting cultures, that the most commonly encountered obstacles to incident reporting were the fear of individual/legal accusation and the fear of negative reactions from administrators and colleagues. “The fear obstacle toward medical error reporting remains,” the study’s authors wrote, “and the strategies that have been developed are still insufficient.”

The study offered four suggestions for improving incident reporting, which are listed here in order of priority.

  • Education and the development of awareness about reporting.
  • Dissolution of the atmosphere of fear and potential risks as a consequence of reporting.
  • Delivery of constructive feedback in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Shortening of the reporting duration.

What’s more, the study concluded that “the feedback of reporting has been seen as an important issue that requires emphasis. According to the results of this literature review, the identification of the feedback forms used in error reporting, and the best application suggestions in this field, including a safe feedback loop in institutions, the use of effective feedback channels, supply of feedback about the analysis of reporting, and the results and corrective actions (in a timely manner), were considered to be the best applications. In this study, institutions were recommended to create forms and systems that included the best applications with regard to effective feedback.”

Strategy 3: Implement Teamwork Skills Training

Team training of healthcare employees can reduce patient mortality by 15 percent, according to a 2016 study conducted jointly by Rice University, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Central Florida, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Team training is specifically designed to not only improve staff members’ team-based knowledge, but also improve problem solving by encouraging healthcare providers to work together to find better solutions. The secondary benefits of team training are enhanced leadership skills, improved communication, and better cooperation.

Researchers reported that team training reduced medical errors by almost 20%, improved clinical performance by 34%, and increased patient satisfaction by 15%.

In addition, staff members’ ability to learn new skills increased by 31%, and their on-the-job applications of these skills improved by 25%. What’s more, financial outcomes improved by 15%.

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