Patient safety is an important element of medical care in today’s world, and the responsibility for safety falls to everyone who is part of the healthcare team, as well as the patient. The goal of patient safety is to prevent, reduce, report, and analyze medical error that leads to problems with the patients.
This is a relatively new discipline, as the number of issues and the size of the issues was not truly known until the 1990s. Countries from around the world were reporting that they had many patients that were injured, or even killed, due to medical errors. The World Health Organization found that around 10% of all patients around the world were affected by healthcare errors. They called the problem an epidemic, and healthcare organizations went about trying to correct the problem. Thus, the patient safety discipline was born.
The Importance of Communication
Communication is vital when it comes to patient safety, and yet, this is where things have more of a tendency to break down. Good communication can help to achieve the best outcome for patients. The doctors need to be clear with their patients about their treatments and medications, and the patients need to be forthcoming to the healthcare providers. They need to ask questions and let the doctors know about their medications, as well as their concerns.
The doctors and other healthcare providers need to treat their patients with empathy and respect, as this is one of the best methods of effective communication. They need to listen to the patients, be sensitive to cultural diversity, and find ways to communicate clearly to the patient so he or she understands what the doctor is saying. This is important through in-person verbal communication, as well as emails, phone calls, and other communication.
The Development of the Safety Culture
Healthcare clinics and hospitals are working to create a safety culture in their facilities. This seeks to look for the cause of incidents that cause problems with patient safety rather than trying to find someone to blame. For too long, the blame culture was a part of the healthcare system, as no one wanted to take responsibility for harming a patient.
The Causes of Error in Healthcare
To improve patient safety, it has become necessary to look at the main causes of error in the first place. They tend to fall into one of three categories – system failures, complexity, and human factors.
When it comes to system failures, if could be rooted in poor communication, not having enough staff to provide proper care, poor reporting systems, overreliance on automated systems aimed at preventing error, cost cutting, a failing infrastructure, and even drug names that are too similar.
Complexity refers to medical complexity. This could include prolonged hospital stays, stays in the intensive care unit, new or powerful medications, and complicated technologies that may not be fully understood by those who are using them.
Human factors can play a huge role in errors, as well, and they need to be addressed for patient safety. Some of the most common human errors include fatigue, depression, not enough experience, time pressure, and not acknowledging that medical errors are serious and that they can be common without proper precautions.
Systems set up in clinics and hospitals today aim to address and eliminate as many of these issues as possible.
How to Be a Safe Patient
While it is important for the healthcare providers to have systems in place that help to increase patient safety and reduce the instances of problems, the patient needs to take a proactive role, as well. Remember the importance of communication. If you have any questions, doubts, or concerns, be sure to ask questions so you can have them cleared up. If needed, take a friend or family member to the doctor with you so it might be easier to understand the answers.
Always make sure you tell your healthcare providers about all the medicines that you take. You must also include over the counter medications, as well as dietary supplements and vitamins that you take. Make sure they are aware of allergies you might have and if you have ever had an adverse reaction to anaesthesia. Keep a copy of your health history, as well. With the advent of electronic health records, this is not as needed as it was in the past, but it still could be a good idea.
Finally, make sure you get second opinions when it comes to your treatment options. You want to make sure that you are getting the proper care and treatment no matter how large or small your healthcare issue might be.
Patient Safety Grows
Patient safety is a field that has been growing steadily over the course of the last couple of decades. Practices are being improved, and hospitals and clinics around the world continue to work hard to make sure all their patients are as safe as possible.