Improving Patient Safety
Patients and their safety must always be the number one priority in all health related industries. When patients are admitted into the hospital or health site, they are likely scared and hurting from disease or injuring. While waiting to be seen by a physician, they are looking for reassurance and encouragement from hospital staff. With patient safety remaining the number one priority, good practices and hospital standards must be maintained, but it is the health administrators who are responsible for creating the proper standards of a safety-based culture.
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Patient Safety Statistics
It may help to look at this numerically. In 2012, The Leapfrog Group–a nonprofit organization that, for the past 17 years, has assessed the safety of American health care–launched the Hospital Safety Score program. This program assigned more than 2,500 United States hospitals a letter grade to assess the safety of each facility. The group took into account medical errors, accidents, injuries and avoidable deaths at each hospital facility.
Compared to those hospitals that received an “A” grade, “B” rated hospital have a 9 percent higher risk of avoidable death, while “C” grade hospitals hospitals have a 35% higher risk of avoidable death. The numbers get worse from there. Hospitals graded with a “D” or “F” have a 50 percent higher risk of avoidable death. For background, the study found that of the 206,021 avoidable deaths that occur each year, 162,117 of these occur in B, C, D, and F rated hospitals.
According to the Leapfrog Group’s 2016 Hospital Safety Score analysis, an excess of 33,000 lives could be saved each year if all hospitals had the same superior performance as those graded with an “A.”
You may assume that most hospitals receive an “A” grade. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, dating back to 2013, only 153 hospitals have earned “straight A” grades. Of the 2,571 hospitals the Leapfrog Group assessed, 798 received an “A” average, 639 hospitals were graded with a “B,” 957 hospitals received a “C,” 162 hospitals were graded with a “D” average, and 15 hospitals received a “F” or failing grade. It seems that the location of these hospital facilities also has a major impact on its grade. There are zero “A” grade hospitals in the District of Columbia, Arkansas and Wyoming.
Infectious Disease and Accidental Deaths
Now let’s take a look at the statistics involved with infectious disease at these facilities. A whopping 1.7 million health care associated infections are diagnosed each year, resulting in 99,000 deaths.
Unsurprisingly, there is a monetary amount associated with these infection diseases. A surprising $19.5 billion in health care costs are directly associated with medical errors each calendar year.
In 2016, health professionals found that blood infections are a major, ongoing issue. There are an estimated 250,000 Central Line associated Bloodstream Infections that occur each year. These infections result in a death rate that hovers between 12 to 25 percent. Additionally, patients that experience this potentially life threatening condition usually agreed to extended hospital stays. Of course these extended stays are expensive, as they can climb to a cost of more than $56,000 per infection.
It does not end there. Adverse medication effects account for a sobering number of unnecessary deaths in underperforming hospital environments. More than 770,000 combined injuries and deaths take place each year. There is a huge price tag attached to these tragic mistakes and accidents accounting for $5.6 billion each year.
Leadership is the Answer to the Problem
Many health care facilities are looking for solutions to their patient safety problems. It all starts with leadership, who must then establish a rigid culture of safety with a trickle down or top down approach.
Keeping in mind that the safety of the patient is the number one concern, it is the hospital administrator’s responsibility to step up and set the tone for their hospital facility. The administration must first work on policy creation. When this is finished, the next step is to enforce these new policies. Administrators are responsible for leading the change, and creating a culture based entirely on patient safety.
Safety Implementation Tips
Step one: Creation of a Patient Safety Policy
Health administrator should create a strict safety and health policy that all staff must abide by, and there should be a written policy available to all hospital employees at all times. Most importantly, this policy must be actively enforced, so take some time to think about what disciplinary actions will take place for those who fail to follow the new policy.
It is also imperative to establish goals and objectives that are: safety related, specific, measurable and time bound. Perhaps most importantly, health administrators must lead by example. Leaders need to model behavior they want to see repeated.
Step 2: Assign Responsibilities
Another way to drive the new policy home is to assign responsibilities, and set up a program for ongoing evaluation. Leaders should communicate how these changes will contribute to patient health and invest their time and resources back into maximizing a safe hospital that can provide the very best patient care.
All employees must be trained to identify both risks and hazards, fully understand safety hygiene procedures, and analyze accidents and potential at risk behaviors.
Step 3: Ongoing Communication and Accountability
Like most change management endeavors, communication is key. Communication and trust rise and fall together. For this reason, employee communication with management is vital for reporting hazards and evaluating performance and program effectiveness. Additionally, every employee should understand how to report incidents and unsafe conditions within the facility.
Accountability is the major piece of the safety puzzle. It is important to measure the success of the new established standards and culture. Since culture determines employee actions, regardless of procedures and policies, an organization that prioritizes safety in their culture should see the higher patient safety rates.
Step 4: Feedback
Feedback is important to any health administrations’ success. It provides them insights on positive and negative aspects of their organization and it allows them to work on their weaknesses. Without consistent feedback, safety improvements simply cannot happen. On the other side of the coin, organizations and administrations should ensure that employees are valued, cared for and healthy.