Everyone Can Contribute to Patient Safety Awareness

By the bioMérieux Connection Editors

It’s Patient Safety Awareness Week, which occurs annually during the month of March and is intended to spread awareness about health care safety. During this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement seek to “advance important discussions locally and globally, and inspire action to improve the safety of the healthcare system — for patients and the workforce.”

The World Health Organization estimates that 134 million adverse events occur each year due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries. This ultimately leads to about 2.6 million deaths. Of the harm that occurs in ambulatory or primary care settings, about 80% of it is preventable and almost half of patients experience harm in some way.

Patient safety is an issue not only abroad, but in the United States too. Some studies suggest that up to 400,000 deaths occur in the U.S. each year as a result of errors or preventable harm. When an error occurs, it can also have a long-term impact on the physical health, emotional health, or financial well-being of a patient who survives.

“The epidemic of patient harm in hospitals must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed,” concludes a Journal of Patient Safety study. “Fully engaging patients and their advocates during hospital care, systematically seeking the patients’ voice in identifying harms, transparent accountability for harm, and intentional correction of root causes of harm will be necessary to accomplish this goal.”

More recent data shows that patient safety has been improving, although further improvement is still needed in many areas. Of the 36 measures that the study used to evaluate patient safety, 25 showed improvement from 2000-2016. This included a decrease in adverse events in adults who received hip and knee joint replacements as well as catheter-related bloodstream infections among discharges. However, the study found that more broadly, success has not occurred equally among patient populations. For example, many measures showed that people living in poor households received worse care than those living in high-income households.  

In recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week, the Center for Patient Safety is encouraging the acknowledgement of and efforts to improve safe care throughout healthcare. They’re offering a free toolkit for health systems, hospitals, EMS agencies, nursing homes, home care and hospice facilities, pharmacies, and medical offices. If you are a healthcare provider, you can access a checklist of suggestions for activities to promote awareness of safety efforts.

Because everyone interacts with healthcare systems, we all have a role to play in advancing safe healthcare in the U.S. and around the world. To learn more about what you can do to promote patient safety, access resources provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.

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