A report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) shows hospital efforts to improve patient safety over the last several years have resulted in 2.1 million fewer patients harmed, 87,000 fewer patient deaths, and around $19.8 billion in cost savings.
Although that’s good news for hospitals, the work is “far from done," CMS Acting Principal Deputy Administrator and CMO Patrick Conway said in a blog post.
So here are some tips for addressing common hospital patient safety concerns:
- Reducing hospital readmissions. According to Becker’s Infection Control and Clinical Quality, some things you can do to reduce hospital readmission rates include identifying and targeting at-risk patient populations, participating in incentive programs with payers, joining a readmission-prevention collaborative, ensuring adequate nursing staffing during in-patient care, providing clear discharge instructions and improving transitions of care.
- Dealing with superbugs. If you don’t already have a policy on preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms, you might want to think about developing one. Your policy should include surveillance strategies and the use of hand hygiene, standard precautions and contact precautions. Prescribing practices should also be addressed in your superbug policies.
- Improving transitions of care. The Joint Commission has developed a guide for improving care transitions. Strategies in the guide include communication, collaboration and coordination among caregivers; ensuring clinician involvement and shared accountability; comprehensive planning and risk assessment throughout hospital stays; using standardized care transition plans, procedures and forms; staff education and post-discharge follow-up.
- Reducing adverse drug events. One of the most important things you can do to prevent avoidable adverse drug events is diligent medication reconciliation. For preventing medication errors, try computerized provider order entry; the use of double checks, standard order sets, Tall Man letters and leading zeros and avoiding “Do Not Use” abbreviations and trailing zeros.
- Minimizing hospital-acquired infections. Proper hand hygiene is the number one way to reduce hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), so developing hand hygiene guidelines and ensuring compliance are key. The CDC has developed guidelines to prevent specific types of HAIs, including catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, central line-associated-bloodstream infections and antibiotic-resistant infections.
- Developing a policy for Never Events. According to Leapfrog, there are some hospital errors that should never happen, net they still do. These include things like operating on the wrong body part (or the wrong person), leaving objects inside patients after surgery, deaths from medication errors and serious injuries from falls. Leapfrog suggests all organizations have a policy for dealing with Never Events that includes apologizing to the patient and/or family; reporting the event to an outside agency within 10 days; performing a root-cause analysis; waiving costs directly related to the event and making a copy of the policy available to patients, patients’ family members and payers upon request.
- Comparing your policies to evidence-based guidelines. There are tons of evidence-based guidelines available that can be used to help you re-write your policies to improve the safety of patients at your hospital. Most can be found on the internet. Look to the CDC, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, The Joint Commission and national medical or nursing associations.
And remember, policies aren’t effective if they’re not being followed. So monitoring should be an important part of any patient safety initiative.