As like the other industries, the healthcare care industries also run on demand, supply and quality assurance. Patient safety is an important and vital component of quality care in the field of healthcare. Patient safety is a global healthcare concern and is a fundamental principle of healthcare. It is a discipline in healthcare that emphasizes safety to patients in a healthcare centre through prevention, reduction, reporting and analysis of medical errors.
Hospital or any healthcare centre is the place that provides treatment to the sick. A patient visits a hospital or healthcare institution with three requests: listen to me, understand me and accept me. The hospital has the right to accept the patient if it can assure the safety of the patient during the course of the treatment.
Safety means causing less harm to the patient while undergoing treatment in a hospital. Lack of attention towards patient safety measures often leads to adverse effects and therefore it has become a serious healthcare issue. A patient is not only a sick human body. It is a live body that feels pain and a patient used to visit a hospital already with pains and sufferings. So giving unnecessary pain to the patient in the name of treatment is not at all justified. In most of the hospitals or healthcare institutions, patient safety is the top priority but still, there are few places that are not much good in keeping their patients safe.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in developed countries, 1 in 10 patients are harmed while receiving treatment in hospitals. The harms are caused by the range of errors or adverse events. Improving patient safety means reducing the harm to the patients.
Error is said to occur when a planned sequence of mental or physical activities fails to achieve the intended outcome and when this failure cannot be attributed to some chance intervention or occurrence. In most of the occasions, these errors are preventable. Due to such errors, patients might experience dangerous complications and one can even lose the life unnecessarily. A healthcare centre may have the best physician or the finest surgeon or it may be employed with expert technicians unless it is not preventing and eliminating errors it is not providing the most important service to the patients.
There are various factors behind medical errors. The most common of them are human factors that include variation in healthcare provider training and experience, fatigue, depression and burnout, increase in working hours, time pressure, unfamiliar settings and failure to acknowledge the prevalence and seriousness of medical errors.
The second common factors are the system failure that includes inadequate systems to share information in a healthcare centre, infrastructure failure, environment and design factors, poor communication between healthcare workers, disconnected reporting system within the hospital, automated systems to prevent errors, name of drugs that looks alike, cost-cutting measures by hospital etc. The third and the last common factor is medical complexity that is related to powerful drugs, complicated technologies and prolonged hospital stay.
Errors are of various types like diagnostic error where the diagnosis is delayed due to various reasons, hospital-acquired infection that a patient might get from various sources during the stay in the hospital, medication error when a patient gets the wrong medicine or the right medicine but the wrong dosage, readmission when a patient needs to be admitted in the hospital again before less than 30 days after being discharged, wrong-site surgery when operation is done on the wrong part of the body or on wrong person and improper communication between hospital workers as well as patient and doctor.
Practising effective communication is essential for ensuring patient safety. There are several techniques, tools and strategies used to improve communication. To increase the quality of communication, regular feedback should be provided. Many healthcare centres have established systems like a suggestion box, emails or hotline for reporting of errors. Such services should be utilized to report problems so that they can be addressed.
One of the most significant problems with the current healthcare system is the failure to make safety and quality information available to the common people. Somehow the physicians have become so much busy and mechanical nowadays that they hardly have any time to answer a patient’s queries. But hospitals have to ensure patient safety by ensuring proper identification like providing codes or labels. While writing the prescriptions it should be written in capitals to make it easy and clear to understand.
Training of healthcare professionals and team building activities should be promoted to reduce the incidence of errors. Proper healthcare infrastructure will help in reducing harm to the patients. Effective use of signages will prevent many unnecessary and harmful actions. Along with the other healthcare workers, doctors should be equally trained on the prevention of errors and the importance of patient safety. The nursing and other caregiving staff must concentrate well during the time of handing over or taking over the patients’ responsibility.
Engaging patients and their family members to prevent errors and reduce harms are equally important because in many cases the patients or their relatives are also responsible like in the cases of self-medication, going against medical advice, violating a physician’s right or violating the patient safety rules in a hospital. A common man has the right to information to make the correct choice. One should immediately speak up if something that is not right or safe is observed.
If one does see any medical error in a healthcare center he or she must inform the nearest healthcare employee to connect him or her to the one who can investigate and resolve the problem. Coordination between healthcare workers and patients’ attendants is very necessary.
The patient or its family member has the right to raise questions if have any doubt. They can question the treating doctors anything related to the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and medications. Any issues must be discussed in a respectful and peaceful manner to overcome the situation. For a harmless care the patient must assist the hospital staff by proving accurate personal data including the history of allergies or any past illness.
The author is a Chief Operating Officer, North East Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Jorabat, Guwahati. The author can be reached at [email protected] and 97065- 69388.
The write-up has been published on the occasion of World Patient Safety Day. The views expressed by the author are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.
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