We All Have A Stake In Patient Safety

posted by AHIP Coverage

on March 14, 2016

Guest post by Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, National Patient Safety Foundation President and CEO

blog Tejal GandhiLate last year, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported reductions in hospital-acquired conditions, such as adverse drug events, pressure ulcers, and certain infections – encouraging news for all of us in the patient safety field. The progress made has been the result of a public-private partnership, with the federal government, health care providers, health insurance plans, and others joining the effort.

Now is not a time of congratulation, however. It is a time to redouble our efforts and accelerate progress in all areas of patient safety. While we may debate the exact numbers, every indication is that deaths and injuries from preventable medical harms are significant – from diagnostic errors, which affect an estimated 12 million Americans each year, to medication errors, which remain common in all settings.

In 2015, the nonprofit National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) convened a panel of experts to assess progress made in patient safety and to lay out a path for the coming years. The report of this work, Free from Harm: Accelerating Patient Safety Fifteen Years after To Err Is Human, makes eight recommendations:

  1. Ensure that leaders establish and sustain a safety culture
  2. Create centralized and coordinated oversight of patient safety
  3. Create a common set of safety metrics that reflect meaningful outcomes
  4. Increase funding for research in patient safety and implementation science
  5. Address safety across the entire care continuum
  6. Support the health care workforce
  7. Partner with patients and families for the safest care
  8. Ensure that technology is safe and optimized to improve patient safety

One of the most important arguments in the NPSF report is a call to approach patient safety as a public health issue. A public health approach requires all stakeholders to be informed and involved. No matter what your role is in the health care industry—health plan, policy maker, journalist, consumer—you will very likely be in the role of patient some day.  Patients need to be part of the conversation and the solutions, and health plans can help get this message out.

Evidence shows that greater patient engagement can lead to better outcomes as well as decreased health costs. Partnering with patients and families is one of the NPSF report recommendations.

Health plans can play a part by encouraging their members to become more involved in their care. There are many strategies available that can help, from the Ask Me 3 program, which encourages patients to ask three key questions at all of their health encounters, to the Open Notes program, which gives patients access to notes of their doctor visits.

Earlier this year, NPSF announced the United for Patient Safety Campaign, designed to spark dialogue and promote action to improve the safety of the health care system. This week we celebrate Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 13 -19), a highlight of the campaign, seeking to instill the messages that “every day is patient safety day.” We hope to hear from health professionals, patients and consumers, health plans, and others about what they are doing to promote safe care.

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