Healthcare News & Insights

5 ‘New Year’s resolutions’ for better patient safety

A new year’s coming, and for many people, that means they start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s to get in shape or save more money, change is at the forefront of their thoughts. Hospitals should have the same mindset when considering patient safety. 

Per an article from Hospitals & Health Networks, Derek Feeley, the president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), said healthcare leaders must continue to embrace the idea of making positive changes that improve patients’ outcomes.

During Feeley’s keynote speech at IHI’s 28th annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care, he emphasized the importance of shifting from a reactionary culture focusing on problems to a proactive one that nips issues in the bud by encouraging and recognizing success.

Not only is this positive outlook more conducive to improving patient safety in hospitals, it also helps fight against burnout in doctors and nurses, since this attitude gives them a sense their work is valued as important. And clinical staff who aren’t burned out are more invested in keeping patients safe.

New year, new goals

To make the shift toward a more success-oriented culture that boosts patient safety, hospital executives need to stick to five “resolutions” in the coming year and beyond. According to Feeley, they are:

  1. Learn from both what goes right and what goes wrong. Mistakes and errors shouldn’t be seen as opportunities to punish clinical staff. Instead, they should be treated as learning experiences. Staff can use them to tweak care processes, treatments and protocols for various conditions and surgeries. Healthcare executives can encourage an atmosphere of transparency, encouraging staff to speak up about any issues they notice without fear of reprisal.
  2. Move from a reactive and responsive culture to a proactive and generative one. Instead of being stuck in a problem-solving cycle, work to create sustainable solutions that stop issues in their tracks. For example, start using surgical checklists to prevent adverse events in patients before they happen, rather than responding to a never event by implementing stronger safety procedures.
  3. Invest in big patient safety approaches, rather than just individual safety projects. Looking at patient safety as a whole, instead of making changes on a case-by-case basis for specific conditions or patients, can have more far-reaching benefits for your facility. Invest time, money and resources into systems and approaches that can make a positive impact in multiple areas.
  4. Start seeing patient safety as a combined venture between hospitals, patients and their families. Doctors and nurses often feel it’s their sole duty to keep patients safe and healthy. However, truth is, if patients and family members aren’t active partners in the treatment process, outcomes are less likely to be positive. So clinicians must realize that care is a joint effort, and communicate health-related information clearly and effectively to all parties involved. Knowledge boosts engagement for patients, which means they’ll feel more invested in their recovery. And they’ll take more action to get well, such as taking their medications as prescribed and following their discharge instructions.
  5. Understand that dignity and equity are important components of patient safety. Ultimately, giving patients of all backgrounds and income levels the same access to care is crucial to improving safety. Here, it’s essential to treat patients as equal partners in the care process, respecting their preferences and decisions while collaborating to ensure they receive the best possible outcomes from their hospital stays. This is another factor that improves patient engagement.

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