How patient safety initiatives are used to improve patient outcomes

By Berry Mathew

Healthcare facilities are generally expected to be some of the safest spaces to be in, considering that they provide health care for those who need it. However, even the best of them are still at risk of infections, accidents, and other forms of unwanted outcomes. The WHO provides that safety issues are still experienced at different levels of primary and secondary healthcare settings and can also be the cause of patient death throughout the world today. This points out the need for healthcare organizations to maximize patient safety to improve patient outcomes. Healthcare professionals must prioritize patient safety through accident mitigation, facility care, and similar measures.

Improving patient outcomes is one of the significant reasons why patient safety initiatives are put in place. Of all the objectives of healthcare organizations today, positive patient outcomes take center stage. Now and then, healthcare leaders push the conversation about improving patient satisfaction, and different measures are being introduced daily to achieve this aim.

Suppose you have been considering the patient safety initiatives to adopt within your organization and how they come into play in improving patient outcomes. In that case, you should keep reading this article for more insight.

What does patient safety mean?

Under clinical care, patient safety comprises the different efforts that clinical providers put in place to avoid and evade avertible harm to the patient during treatment. It also refers to the need to put strategies in place to keep patients’ health risks as low as possible. 

Healthcare settings can be deemed safe, but the reality is that humans run them, and as a result, they can cause different levels of danger owing to medical errors or infections. Thankfully, these errors can be corrected when the proper safeguards and systems are implemented. Patient safety is all about decreasing the risk of potential errors, infections, and injuries. 

The definition of patient safety may look different to different healthcare workers and settings. Still, in the end, it’s all about finding ways to ensure that the patient’s health is not compromised due to complicated hospital procedures. At this point, patient safety initiatives are put in place to provide a unified patient safety plan throughout a facility.

Patient safety initiatives implemented different measures to minimize physical, mental, and emotional hurt to patients while protecting their private information. Some of these initiatives include procedures designed to avert misdiagnoses, accidents, errors, and anything that may cause harm to the patient. Patient safety initiatives also emphasize that it is indeed a process and not a quick fix to eradicate patient safety issues that may already exist within the healthcare facility.

Types of patient safety concerns

Several patient safety concerns affect healthcare facilities today. Some of the general ones include infections that occur as a result of medical procedures, resistance to treatment that occurs as a result of overmedication, errors with prescription and administration of medications, slip-and-fall accidents within the facility, failure to guarantee appropriate standards of hygiene within the facility, non-implementation of standardized protective equipment within the facility, poor communication, and general care transition difficulties.

How vital are patient safety initiatives?

Putting plans in place for patient safety procedures has a high chance of improving general patient outcomes and can also prevent an increase in medical costs. 

Here are some of the fundamental aspects of patient safety initiatives:

Provision of high-quality care

This could be regarded as a critical benefit of patient safety efforts. When protocols are implemented, the quality of care intensifies and produces better patient benefits. As highlighted earlier, one of the significant patient safety concerns is misdiagnosis and overmedication. However, when the correct initiative is implemented, it will ensure that patients are appropriately treated, and any form of the underlying condition will be adequately attended to rather than being treated as a minor issue.

High-quality care also goes beyond treatments and medication and extends to the post-treatment procedure that is in place. Improved hospital discharge procedures can lower the chances of readmission for the same or related issues and ensure that the overall health needs of the patients are taken care of.

Preventing risks

Patient safety initiatives are implemented to lessen preventable injuries, infections, and medication errors. When safety protocols are in place for patient injuries, it becomes easier for nurses and other healthcare professionals to keep patients safe during rehabilitation. Injuries can also occur during the transfer process around the hospital, but if suitable protocols are in place, it becomes easier to divert the injuries.

For patient infections, on the other hand, the proper safety programs will ensure that medical teams follow strict measures to facilitate sanitization and sterilization throughout the facility, all of which goes a long way in reducing the rate of infections in patients.

Medication errors can also be prevented with the correct medication management tools at all stages of patient intervention. Medication errors tend to carry great risks for healthcare organizations, as they can negatively impact the patient’s overall health.

Safeguarding sensitive patient information

Patient safety goes beyond physical, mental, and emotional safety and extends to informational security. One crucial goal of patient safety initiatives is to protect sensitive patient information about medical history and finances from third parties. This will not only show the health organization as a trustworthy and regulated one, but it will also save patients from exposure, frustration, embarrassment, or loss.

Minimizing costs

Although patient safety initiatives may cost healthcare organizations more to set up, they will minimize costs in the long run. In one regard, patient safety errors will cost organizations more money than the protocols will, and errors will also harm the general outlook of the organization. Healthcare providers may have to spend more to resolve infections, injuries, and mistakes. Patients can also file lawsuits that will not only cost the organization its resources but also have a negative impact on the general reputation and ratings.

Principles to improve patient outcomes

Here are five principles that you can follow to improve patient outcomes within your healthcare facility:

Treat patients as consumers

A viable method of healthcare is to treat all patients as consumers. While a patient refers to a person receiving healthcare services, a consumer refers to the person making decisions about acquiring goods or services and deciding whether to go ahead or not. However, healthcare providers don’t typically regard patients as both.

Patient safety initiatives should ensure that patients understand their treatment and put them at the forefront of healthcare outcomes. It’s easy to assume that the entirety of patient safety responsibilities lies in the hands of physicians or nurses. Still, when patients understand their own care process well, positive patient outcomes become much easier to achieve.

Patients and their caregivers are concerned about improving their health conditions. However, when they are treated as consumers and given enough information about their treatment, they are able to verify their treatment, medication, and procedures as required.

Make use of monitoring technology

Healthcare workers’ interactions with their patients require different needs, attention, and medications. As a result, there’s a dire need to be able to monitor these activities for maximization of treatment processes. With the use of monitoring technology, physicians and nurses can efficiently verify that they’re following the proper procedure for each patient. Monitoring technology also helps keep patient records and their needs safe.

Monitoring technology includes tools like bed alarms and barcode systems that notify staff of patient movement and can even verify their medications. These measures ensure that human errors are quickly detected and prevented and, in the end, ensure that hospitals are able to improve the intensity of their patient safety.

Verify all medical procedures

Medical procedures are one of the easiest ways for mistakes to be made in a healthcare facility. When situations like that occur, it can become a horror story for every party involved, particularly the patient in question. In order to avoid a situation like this, it’s vital to incorporate regular verification processes into the entire hospital system. Verifying medical procedures helps prevent errors as much as possible.

There are several medical verification systems that exist, and one of the most popular is the Universal Protocol. This system is beneficial as it helps to prevent operating errors. It allows members of the surgical team to call for verification of details at different points of the surgery. Verification also goes beyond surgical procedures and applies to other aspects of healthcare, like medication timing and dosage and the validation of established handwashing procedures.

Promote a team atmosphere

Patient safety is the business of every clinical and non-clinical staff in a medical facility. It’s not only dependent on the skills of the nurses, physicians, and pharmacists alone, because every member of the team plays a role in sustaining patient safety. The key to ensuring cooperation between staff members is, firstly, emphasizing the need for teamwork and honesty between team members. The attitude and mindset that they bring into work will affect the patient safety initiatives put in place and, in turn, significantly impact the hospital culture of averting errors.

Share patient feedback with staff, get their input on the latest patient safety trends, form internal risk assessment teams, and encourage participation from each and every member of your staff.

Follow proper handwashing procedures

Finally, one patient safety principle that has gained traction, particularly since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, is the proper handwashing procedure. Indeed, minimal efforts, such as putting plans in place to stop the spread of germs and infections through the facility, improve patient safety. Handwashing is one of the best ways to ensure this happens.

From the first contact point to every nook and cranny of the hospital, ensuring that alcohol-based sanitizers and other handwashing facilities are in place is vital for patient safety. Also, conversations around patient safety and the value of hand hygiene should be promoted to encourage full-on participation. This way, patients and their family members also play their role in maintaining their own safety within the facility.

How to use patient safety initiatives to improve patient outcomes

Now that we know how important patient safety is to improving patient outcomes, it’s essential to highlight the different ways that the initiatives can be used for these improvements. It’s important to point out that these initiatives require optimal efforts from all members of the team. The primary playmakers involved in this process include hospital executives who represent the decision-makers, the different leaders of groups, their team members, and general advocates within the facility.

Here are seven initiatives that can be taken to improve patient outcomes:

Reduction of medical errors

Medication errors, infections, and inaccuracy of diagnosis are among the primary drivers of adverse health outcomes within facilities today. These medical errors can be reduced by:

  • Creating and following standard safety procedures
  • Synchronizing efforts among all levels of healthcare providers at the facility
  • Diagnosing health issues as prudently and swiftly as possible
  • Improving compatibility of health records

Offering telehealth and the latest forms of health technologies

New forms of technology like telehealth ensure that patients have it easier when trying to access healthcare services and medical records. Allowing patients to access their health information on their smartphones and computers will ensure that they can easily communicate and navigate their medical services to get all the care they need.

Management of chronic diseases

Of course, it isn’t far-fetched to say that chronic diseases are one of the leading causes of disability and death in the world today. Diseases like cancer and heart diseases typically show up later in the life of adults, but they usually are developed earlier in life. So, to ensure that these types of conditions are curtailed and patients are safe, it’s essential to create systems that will help patients get easier access to treatments. From easy access to technology to regular follow-ups, several management strategies should be put in place.

Guaranteeing continuity of care and discharge measures

Patient safety also goes beyond the period spent in the healthcare facility. It also means putting the right processes in place for post-care. It includes maintaining high-quality care and coordinating treatment plans with a patient’s family and other providers. Upon discharge, ensure that patients have a clear report of their health status and all that needs to be done to continue with their post-hospital care.

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Building a culture of communication with patients

Take your time providing care for your patients. Based on their individual needs, ensure that you communicate about the realities and needs of their health condition. The best communication approaches to follow are:

  • Asking them to repeat what you’ve explained.
  • Sharing information about their treatment plans with them.
  • Discussing the list of prescriptions that they will need to take.

Creating opportunities for staff to develop

Including staff members as essential parts of the entire scheme is also a patient safety initiative that helps improve patient outcomes. Give your healthcare providers the support and opportunity to grow as professionals and see how far it will go in improving their general output. The options can include training, new use of technologies, and advanced studies.

Staff members and nurses who are interested in improving the patient outcomes of the facilities they work in can take on the MSN AGACNP program at Rockhurst University, where they can learn about the role of advanced practice, particularly in the area of adult gerontology, in order to set the standard for patient care. In addition, studying adult gerontology can provide individuals with valuable knowledge and skills to better understand and support the aging process, both for themselves and for society as a whole.

Analyze the available data

Please pay attention to the available data and use it to determine what needs to be done to improve your hospital operations and outcomes. Using patient satisfaction surveys and EHRs makes it easier to track results and set standards for patient outcomes.

The importance and impact of patient safety is undeniable in the healthcare system today. From nurses and physicians to other healthcare professionals, their minor actions can play a massive role in making patient safety a priority in their healthcare facilities. As we have seen, several measures can be taken to ensure that patient safety is improved and, ultimately, that patient outcomes are enhanced.