Mar 13, 2022

Ensuring Your Safety as a Patient

This month, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Center for Patient Safety will team up to celebrate Patient Safety Awareness Week from March 13-19. The annual recognition event is designed to inspire action, grow awareness, and recognize the work already done surrounding health care safety. While this week is meant to focus on what providers and caregivers can do to ensure patient safety, patients are in the best position to help keep themselves safe.

A “Public Health Concern”

The importance of patient safety in today’s healthcare environment cannot be understated. Conditions within healthcare create a stressful environment. Oftentimes, doctors and nurses are overrun with a long list of responsibilities. They may be asked to work long hours, see a variety of patients, and try to help in a lot of ways. Those less-than-ideal working conditions got worse when the COVID-19 pandemic hit roughly 2 years ago. Burnout and exhaustion compound the likelihood that mistakes could be made.

The IHI cites studies that suggest as many as 400,000 deaths occur in the United States each year because of medical errors, and even more injuries are reported related to preventable harm. They call preventing harm in health care settings a “public health concern.” The need to reduce these incidents drives the importance of Patient Safety Awareness Week. Plus, with every person needing quality care at some point in life, IHI wants everyone to be fully invested in ways to advance patient safety in health care.

What Your Doctor Should Do

Although obvious, it’s worth saying that doctors and other care providers are fully responsible to improve and ensure patient safety in the healthcare setting. They need to be mindful to look at each situation as a unique opportunity to focus on safety. At the same time, they can track and examine overall trends that happen with patient safety in their hospitals. Recognizing chances to implement better planning techniques and communicate more effectively are great areas to address. Doctor and nurse fatigue should be monitored in themselves and in their coworkers. Double-checking medication that are prescribed to prevent drug dosage mistakes and other pharmacy errors will also aid in keeping patients safe.

The following steps are recommended:

  • Healthcare providers need to plan sufficiently before conducting procedures and treatments.
  • The care team should communicate with everyone involved to ensure confidence in how they will handle the situation. You also want them to discuss alternatives if something unexpected happens. Everyone should be prepared to adjust on the fly.
  • Doctors are required to get enough rest and adhere to federal guidelines that govern their working hours.
  • The care team needs to look out for medication interactions or possible issues. Providing a clear and thorough medication history can help them understand how your body may react to various medications given in the hospital setting and prescribed for at-home use.
  • When leaving a hospital, each patient should fully understand their treatment plan. This may require further explanation from the care team. Meet the patient where they can best understand their discharge materials. That may include printed and digital materials, along with a reminder plan to follow up.

What You Can Do When You’re a Patient

You are in the best position to ensure you are safe while receiving care and after your leave your doctor’s office. Understanding that the figure in scrubs or a white coat providing care to you is a person. Being empathic to their challenges in the medical professional can go a long way in opening a conversation with your care team. They may have the title of doctor or nurse professionally, but they are just like you and me. They’re a person and they’re capable of making mistakes.

Following the tips below can ensure you receive proper care for yourself or a loved one:

  • Be Honest. A full medical history is a requirement when expecting the best care. If you leave out a piece of the puzzle, a gap could leave you open to unsafe consequences.
  • Do Your Homework. Research as much as possible about your condition and possible treatment options. Resources are available to facilitate transparency about health systems as well. For example, you can look up the grade given to your hospital at Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grade site. Searches can be done by city and state and are updated yearly.
  • Know Your Care Team. Meet your new best friends, the members of your care team! It’s not enough to just know the name of your doctor and head nurse. All the people on your care team will touch your patient journey so they all matter. You want to make sure there is open communication with every person involved. Continuity in the plan can ensure your patient safety.
  • Ask Questions. Even if you think you know the answer, ask anyway. Don’t assume. You should feel completely in the know at every step of the process. Caregivers who are just as invested in ensuring your safety will appreciate that you are proactively asking what is happening with your care.
  • Be Empathic. Healthcare workers have been hit hard with stress since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many doctors and nurses are exhausted. Short staffing was an issue prior to the pandemic, and it became a bigger issue after. Understanding and empathy can allow everyone to feel safe and comfortable. Doctors and nurses will be better able to help you if they feel supported.

For more patient resources about staying safe while receiving care, CLICK HERE.

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