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Improving Patient Safety Outcomes - A Practical Approach to Making a Hospital Encounter a Safer Experience

Entering a hospital or receiving care from any health care system can be a very scary experience - and a dangerous one if studies are to be believed.

Strategic and tactical initiatives addressing the crisis of medical errors in the national and world wide health care networks are underway. In 1999 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published its landmark report, To Err is Human, that pointed out anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 patients died each year as a result of mistakes in their care while being treated as inpatients. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement puts the estimate closer to 180,000 lives. 

Subsequently the IOM published other reports, such as Crossing The Quality Chasm, that examined the overall quality of medical care in the U.S. and the factors associated with variability in quality.  The principal characteristics to high quality care were those of safety, timeliness, effectiveness, efficiency, and being patient centered.

This explicit recognition that in order for care to be of a high quality it must be patient centered turned the spotlight on a resource in the quest for high quality care that has often been underutilized. 

St. Andrew has engaged the services of a world renowned leader in the area of patient safety. The philosophical approach to medical errors is based on flight accident investigation principals. Errors are bound to happen as humans are usually at the controls or, in the case of the medical community, on the other end of the scalpel. By approaching your medical encounter with a level of knowledge in the area of patient safety, patients can increase their chances of having a positive experience.

Here are five simple, powerful steps that you, your fellow co-workers  or your family members can take to make sure that your hospital experience is a safer one:

1. Hand washing - Make sure that medical professionals - doctors, nurses & aids - wash their hands BEFORE laying hands upon you. They should foam or suds for no less than 15 seconds to ensure that bacteria that can cause infection are killed.

2. Glove handling - There are correct and incorrect ways for medical professionals to handle gloves. It is in your best interest to know the difference and be in a position to respectfully remind a member of your medical team when they are not "gloving" themselves correctly.

3. Patient identification / verification - Make sure that you are who your surgical team thinks you are. A significant number of surgical errors still occur because surgery meant for one patient is performed on another patient. Insist that your full name and date of birth be used at ever step of your pre-operative session.

4. Clear Designation of the Correct Surgical Site - Make certain that your surgical team has an absolutely clear understanding of what part of your body is to be operated on, especially what side of your body will be worked on. Many errors occur because of everyday confusion that happens when dealing with right and left. This is a major source of preventable errors so be sure to double - even triple check.

5. Medication reconciliation - When reporting for treatment have a list of current medication that you are taking. This helps your medical team develop a greater understanding of how you are currently receiving treatment and also alert them to certain drugs that may not be compatible for you to take because of your current medications.

Please note that these are just a summary of the most preventable efforts that you might encounter during your interactions with the health care community and not meant to take the place of a dialogue with your doctor. 

If you would care to learn about tools that St. Andrew has created to help with workplace wellness or general health click HERE

Below are some helpful links that will give additional information on the topics addressed above. Click on any logo to go to their web site.

VA National Center for Patient Safety IHI.org - A resource from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations




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Revision # 05.22.2006 14:49

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