When there’s somewhere to be, and milestones to achieve, we map it. Today, our ultimate destination in healthcare is improving patient safety and eliminating errors—all while reducing spend and improving care quality. To get there, we need a roadmap with clear, specific goals and actions.
Ensuring the safety of patients and staff is crucial to the success of any healthcare organization, not just because of legal, regulatory, and reimbursement obligations, but because doing so is in everyone’s best interest, and it's the right thing to do. Unsafe healthcare facilities are stressful environments that jeopardize patient safety, result in a poor patient experience, and accelerate provider and staff dissatisfaction and burnout. Demonstrate to staff that your organization takes unsafe situations seriously, and you’ll be on the way to increased workforce satisfaction.
Chart your course for patient safety
The key elements of healthcare safety are well-understood. Government regulators, accreditation bodies, medical associations, and industry experts all provide guideposts. There is a huge body of collective knowledge about achieving a safety culture. But your hospital or healthcare organization must create its own patient safety roadmap. Your patient safety roadmap should consider your patient population, service offerings, culture, mission, workforce, resources, and more.
Chart your course by ensuring that safety goals and plans are written down, accessible to all, and actionable so that they become a true north for everyone—from the patient at the center, to the entire care team and other support staff.
Further, your documented goals and action plans will allow administrators and the board to become fully aware of risks. Armed with that knowledge, key decision makers will be in a better position to provide the support and resources necessary to achieve safety goals.
Develop standards for hospital-wide safety
As your hospital or healthcare organization becomes a multi-faceted healthcare enterprise, you invite new risks and vulnerabilities. A strong, consistent, organization-wide framework for patient safety, paired with the right technology, can make all the difference in helping your organization prevent harm and preserve fiscal health.
Developing and implementing a standards-based approach to patient safety starts with a strategy: Encourage the reporting of incidents, use uniform terminology for documenting and analyzing them, and benchmark the results to learn from them. Equally important: ensuring alignment across all sites of care—the hospital setting, clinics, pharmacy, and more—and embracing a digital approach to report incidents, instead of relying on paper and manual processes.
So how can your healthcare organization find an approach that will work for your unique challenges today and in the future? Start with self assessment and conduct research about various standards and methodologies for improving patient safety. The following are standardized approaches to patient safety for consideration in your hospital or healthcare organization.
- Standards for reporting and analyzing incidents
Incident reporting is the act of documenting all incidents and near incidents, ideally using an online form and workflow to capture details and share the account digitally. Incidents are also reported through complaints, audits, and safety rounds.
- Standards for sharing learnings
Learning from incidents is crucial toward the goals of achieving greater patient safety and higher-quality care. Initiatives like Safety II were created to encourage transparency and to “learn from what goes well.” But creating a basic willingness among staff to be open and upfront also requires a structured approach that values and makes the reporting exercises worthwhile by executing on the data and findings.
- Adopting a uniform terminology
Understanding medical terminology, the “language of medicine,” allows clinicians and staff to communicate effectively for maximum safety. For healthcare providers, it starts with their initial education and training and never stops—as they must keep up to date with new regulations and medical advancements once on the job.
- Standards for analyzing events
The ability to report incidents internally and externally and to create action plans for improvement requires the use of standard analytical methods. Patient safety, quality improvement, and risk management professionals have numerous methods to analyze incidents through a variety of retrospective and prospective methods. Examples of such methods include SIRE method, Ishikawa method, PRISMA analysis (root-cause analysis), FMEA analysis, and FRAM analysis.
- Aligning departments and facilities
To ensure alignment around patient safety, all team members must take responsibility for quality improvement. In addition, quality, risk management, and patient safety professionals must assess the organization's safety culture, understand the relationship between organizational objectives and patient safety, and help the facility learn structurally from incidents.
- Automating quality and risk processes
Using a digital quality management system that includes an improvement tracking system that supports the management of improvement projects has a powerful impact on patient safety. This approach can be initiated as a result of a specific adverse event, a trend, or a specific issue. Quality, risk management, and patient safety leaders can design workflows within the digital system to create tasks, actions, and lead times to ensure the implementation of quality improvement initiatives.
Build on what you have
With some key elements of patient safety already in place, your roadmap can help you raise the bar and decide on next steps. It can also be used to digitally document—and promote—what you’ve already accomplished on the road to becoming a safer healthcare organization.
The truth about pursuing safety in healthcare is that there will always be risks. To build on your existing safety and quality framework, begin by asking:
- Are staff at every level aware of their role in fostering safety? This question prompts research into the type and amount of education and training needed.
- Do we know which risks take precedence today, and which should be a priority? This question scrutinizes your organization’s capability to collect and analyze data.
- Do we understand which assessment and remedial actions to take, to control the risks and eliminate them as much as possible? This question spurs an inventory of available tools to schedule, monitor, assess, and secure improvement actions and follow-up.
- Are we collecting volumes of data that’s never acted on (i.e., “data rich but information poor”)? This question explores whether your organization is capitalizing on integrated patient safety software workflows.
Prioritize safety using our framework
Your organization’s unique patient safety roadmap should guide you in developing and implementing standards for hospital-wide patient safety. From gathering data and managing improvement actions, to handling associated support issues (staff and patient)—create or tune-up your roadmap by using the following effective strategies to improve safety:
- Encourage staff incident reporting
- Implement and monitor improvements
- Solicit and use patient input
- Foster a top-down culture of safety
- Monitor points along the care continuum
- Foster team communication
- Create rapid response teams
- Perform safety rounds with staff
- Increase the safety of healthcare professionals
- Automate quality and risk processes
Navigate using data
With so much at stake, how can hospitals ensure patient safety while also safeguarding revenue? In a word: Data. Using data to guide real-time improvement empowers healthcare organizations to identify and mitigate the risk of errors—not retrospectively after a patient, staff member, or visitor has been harmed.
However, maximizing the use of data requires some degree of automation, so actionable insights can rise to the surface. Automation can quicken incident reporting and increase an organization’s ability to trigger immediate action. It can also remind staff members of upcoming compliance deadlines, so organizations are always one step ahead.
The road to safety starts with a strategy. As your hospital or healthcare organization becomes a multi-faceted healthcare enterprise, you invite new risks and vulnerabilities. A strong, consistent, organization-wide framework for patient safety, paired with the right technology, can make all the difference in helping your organization prevent harm and preserve fiscal health.
Are you ready to take the next step toward increased patient safety in your organization? Rely on symplr Safety’s 15 years’ of experience, backed by proven results in increased quality and safety using our software for quality and risk management.