Patient Safety is the first discipline in healthcare. As we use more complex methods for handling health, improving patient safety is always the top priority for every provider.
Safety of patients emerged as a priority because of the evolving complexity of healthcare systems and the resulting rise of patient harm in healthcare facilities.
It aims to prevent and reduce risks, errors, and harm to patients while providing healthcare.
Understanding Patient Safety in Healthcare
Patient Safety Definition & Scope
Patient safety is a critical aspect of healthcare that demands unwavering attention and continual improvement. It refers to the measures and practices implemented within healthcare systems to prevent harm to patients during the provision of medical care. Patient safety definition encompasses a wide range of strategies, protocols, and initiatives. The aim is to reduce the risk, ensuring patient safety from medical errors, adverse events, and injuries that can occur during diagnosis, treatment, and overall healthcare processes. This blog delves into the multifaceted realm of safety among patients, exploring its significance, challenges, analysis of root causes, and viable solutions.
Moreover, patient safety strategies include all measures taken to prevent harm to patients during their healthcare journey. Reducing medical errors and improving patient safety safeguards them from medical infections, complications, and other avoidable adverse events.
Statistics on Medical Errors
The sobering reality is that medical errors are a significant global health concern. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hundreds of thousands of patients die yearly due to preventable medical errors. These errors can occur at any point in healthcare, from diagnosis to treatment and post-operative care.
Diagnostic errors occur in about 5% of adults in outpatient care settings, more than half of which have the potential to cause severe harm. Most people will suffer a diagnostic error in their lifetime (13).
Read some WHO Key facts about Patient Safety Here
Consequences of Patient Safety Incidents
Patient safety errors leading to unforeseen incidents not only result in physical harm but also have emotional and financial repercussions. Additionally, patients and their families suffer, healthcare providers face legal and ethical dilemmas, and healthcare institutions bear the brunt of litigation and reputational damage.
Addressing Patient Safety in Laboratory
Ensuring patient safety in laboratory is a shared responsibility among healthcare professionals, laboratory staff, and patients themselves. Patients should actively engage in their healthcare, question results or discrepancies, and understand the importance of accurate testing.
However, laboratory errors and patient safety challenges can pose significant risks to patients. These errors can occur at various stages of the testing process, from sample collection and handling to result reporting. Furthermore, common laboratory errors include mislabeled samples, equipment malfunctions, transcription mistakes, and misinterpretation of results.
The consequences of laboratory errors and patient safety concerns in healthcare can be severe. Misdiagnoses can lead to incorrect treatments, delayed interventions, or unnecessary procedures, all of which can harm patients. To enhance patient safety, laboratories implement rigorous quality control measures, automate testing processes, and ensure staff training and competency.
Dealing With Patient Safety Challenges
Different healthcare institutions, like labs, hospitals, wellness centers, therapy centers, etc., undergo different sets of challenges to ensure patient safety. These challenges are as follows:
- Healthcare System Complexity
- Communication Gaps
- Workforce Issues
- Technological Challenges
Healthcare System Complexity
Healthcare system complexities often occur due to –
- The intricate nature of healthcare systems is a great challenge to patient safety.
- The multiple stakeholders involved that are segregated into decentralized niches affect management. Some of the best examples of these stakeholders include insurance companies, corporate parties, and private & government bodies. These are all who are trying to fulfill the same mission but fail due to the complex nature of their work.
- Complex or prolonged processes that take longer to implement and exercise than change for a new process setup. From the long queues to admit a patient at any medical facility to the delayed response from doctors, every step of the process is super prolonged for any patient seeking medical care.
- A constant influx of new information is another variant of the ever-growing system & management complexity. With the rising number of diseases, their variants, and their treatment & therapy options, healthcare facilities deal with this constant influx of new information. It takes time, effort, and practice to leverage such info, which affects patient service delivery.
All of the above poses a significant challenge to patient safety.
How many of you have come across doctors who just write a prescription to patients without informing them about their health conditions, including what to avoid and what to consume?
Many would say, “I have.”
Communication gaps are a never-ending challenge in healthcare, widely affecting a doctor-patient relationship. Also, inadequate communication between healthcare providers, departments, and shifts can lead to misunderstandings, misdiagnoses, and medication errors. If we resolve these patient safety concerns in healthcare internally, with stakeholders and patients, healthcare institutions will never have to compromise on the safety of patients.
Shortages of qualified healthcare professionals, high patient-to-provider ratios, and burnout can cause compromise on patient safety considerations. Read the blog to learn how to balance your laboratory staff’s work-life balance.
While technology offers great potential for improving patient safety in healthcare, issues such as EHR interoperability and cybersecurity can introduce new risks. Also, lack of knowledge, training and the constantly changing & evolving nature of technological systems increase the challenge of adoption for staff, leading to mismanagement and delayed management.
Analyzing Root Causes That Hamper Patient Safety
Medication errors are a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm in health care systems: globally, the cost of medication errors has been estimated at US$ 42 billion annually (10).
Let’s understand the root causes of major challenges hampering the safety of patients, directly or indirectly. To do so, we must know how to study, track, and do the analysis of patient safety thoroughly.
The different ways to study and analyze the root causes that hamper patient safety checklist are as follows –
- Understanding Human Error vs. System Failures
- Learning From Case Studies of Patient Safety Incidents
- Identifying Common Patterns
Human Error vs. System Failures
The initial strategies to improve patient safety should be finding whether it occurred because of human error or system failure. Understanding patient safety incidents that result from individual human errors or systemic failures is crucial for targeted interventions.
Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25% of patients. Almost 7 million surgical patients suffer significant complications annually, 1 million of whom die during or immediately following surgery (12).
Case Studies of Patient Safety Incidents
Examining real-world case studies helps identify patterns, uncover latent factors, and develop effective preventive measures.
Identifying Common Patterns
Patterns in patient safety errors and incidents may include medication faults, miscommunication, surgical complications, and more. Identifying, monitoring, and troubleshooting such patterns can resolve barriers to the safety of patients.
Solutions and Strategies to Improve Patient Safety
To exercise patient safety solutions, we must design strategies that can back the overall aim of improving safety for patients.
Mentioned below are the 4 best patient safety strategies:
- Education and Training
- Technology Integration
- Process Improvement
- Patient Involvement
1. Education and Training
Firstly, educating facility staff about new frameworks, policies, new healthcare information, technological systems, approaches, and evolving techniques is crucial. Exercising through training is equally important in every healthcare facility to ensure that patients are handled safely and with uttermost hygiene.
This can be done through –
- Continuous Professional Development
- Team Training and Communication
Continuous Professional Development
Ongoing training ensures healthcare professionals stay current with best practices and the latest advancements.
Team Training and Communication
Enhancing teamwork and communication skills can reduce errors caused by misunderstandings or miscoordination.
2. Technology Integration
Secondly, healthcare entities are decentralized and complex. This creates gaps among stakeholders to communicate and collaborate to make wise patient decisions. Technological adoption and technology integrations can enhance patient safety and care and thus bridge such gaps. Patient safety solutions and measures ensure the same.
Essential technological integration must include the following:
- Electronic Health Records (EHR)
- Decision Support Systems
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Implementing comprehensive EHR systems improves data accuracy, accessibility, and clinical decision-making.
Decision Support Systems
These systems provide real-time guidance to healthcare providers, reducing errors and improving patient outcomes.
3. Process Improvement
Further, easy-to-use systems with tough procedures can bring us back to the same problem. Hence, process improvement is a must for improving patient safety.
It can be achieved through the following areas –
- Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare
- Error Reporting and Analysis
Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare
Applying Lean Six Sigma principles to healthcare processes streamlines workflows and minimizes waste, leading to safer care and hence improving patient safety in healthcare.
Error Reporting and Analysis
Encouraging a culture of reporting and analyzing errors helps uncover systemic issues and promotes continuous improvement. Using health tech systems like LIS, and HIS can assist in improving the reporting quality and accuracy of reporting and analysis.
4. Patient Involvement
It’s best when you take consent and get feedback from your end customers.
To understand how your patient’s experience was, you must take the following into account –
- Informed Patient Consent
- Patient Advocacy
Empowering patients with information and involving them in decisions about their care fosters a sense of ownership and safety.
Patients and their advocates can be pivotal in identifying safety concerns and driving change within healthcare institutions.
Future Trends to Enhance Patient Safety
The medical healthcare, diagnostics, and pharma sector has shown great improvements in reducing medical errors and improving patient safety due to the rising trends in the industry.
Considered very fruitful patient safety solutions, some of the future trends are –
- Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics
- Telemedicine and Remote Monitoring
- Patient Safety Culture Transformation
Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can analyze vast healthcare data sets. Such trends work for predicting and measuring patient safety to prevent any accidental incidents. Also, it is highly adopted by diagnostics and surgical areas to understand and predict solutions for patient safety faster and more accurately. Know how AI can transform medical lab operations here.
Telemedicine and Remote Monitoring
Remote healthcare services bring new patient safety challenges and opportunities that must be addressed. These are sectors that are still evolving and are in the learning phase for improvement, but they have so far shown better results for patient welfare.
Patient Safety Culture Transformation
A culture of safety should be cultivated at all levels of healthcare organizations to ensure continuous improvement. Right from phlebotomists to front desk persons, ward boys to wellness experts, every individual must practice a patient safety culture and opt for solutions for patient safety at their individual health, care, and wellness institutions.
Measuring and Assessing Patient Safety
Measuring and assessing safety applications must be performed considering the following:
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Benchmarking and Data Analysis
- Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Establishing KPIs for measuring patient safety helps healthcare organizations track progress and make data-driven decisions.
Benchmarking and Data Analysis
Comparing data and marking patient safety checklists with industry benchmarks and best practices can highlight areas for improvement.
Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Regularly looking at patient safety considerations and seeking input from patients, providers, and staff ensures that patient safety efforts remain effective and responsive.
Revisiting the challenges and complexities in the safety of patients underscores the need for sustained efforts. Through that, we understand that ensuring patient safety is not a one-time endeavor; it requires continuous dedication and adaptation to evolving healthcare landscapes. Hence, all healthcare stakeholders- providers, institutions, regulators, and patients, must collaborate to enhance patient safety in reality for everyone seeking healthcare services.