Preventable errors are estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately $187.5 billion to $250 billion annually. (1) Establishing an effective patient safety framework can decrease preventable errors and improve patient outcomes while reducing costs. In recent years, healthcare organizations have begun placing focus on reforming organizational culture in order to maximize patient safety.
A culture of safety is defined as “as an integrated pattern of individual and organizational behavior, based upon shared beliefs and values, that continuously seeks to minimize patient harm that may result from the processes of care delivery.” (2)
There are 3 key factors to consider when implementing a successful patient safety framework within healthcare organizations:
1. Perceived Ease of Reporting
The first key element to consider when implementing a new patient safety framework is, “How difficult is it to report an event?” If employees have to dig through piles of paper to locate the correct form, find the right Excel file, or even wait for a password reset on an electronic reporting form – all of these methods present barriers to reporting.
According to a study released by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), roughly 86% of patient safety incidents occurring in healthcare organizations go unreported. (3)
Regardless of which method your organization chooses to track incident reports, the process needs to be streamlined and user-friendly for employees who are using the system every day. Some guidelines to keep in mind are:
- Incident reports should take less than 2 minutes for employees to complete.
- When designing answer choices on the reporting form, utilize radio buttons or dropdown lists rather than free text fields. This reduces time spent answering questions and also helps filter out unnecessary information, such as an employee’s opinion about an event.
- If using an electronic incident reporting system, consider a system that does not require a login for employees to report an event. Often, requiring a username and password to report an event results in underreporting. It’s not hard to see why: most healthcare employees don’t have time to wait on a password reset, and will go back to patient care instead of reporting the event. Eliminating the need for a login is a way to increase reporting while saving employee’s valuable time for patient care.
2. Perceived Safety of Reporting
The next key element to consider is, “Will I get in trouble for reporting?” Blaming individuals for mistakes is one of the greatest impediments to incident prevention in the healthcare industry.
According to a study by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Patient Safety Surveys, 47 percent of respondents said that it feels like incident reports are held against them. 50 percent indicated that, after an event is reported, it feels like the person is being written up, not the problem. (4)
When staff do not feel like they have a safe, supportive environment to speak up about incidents, patient safety is likely to suffer as a result. The focus of incident reporting should be on fostering learning and improvements, not placing blame. Establishing a just culture of care where employees feel safe and encouraged to speak up about safety events is a crucial first step towards improving patient outcomes and reducing harm.
3. Perceived Impact of Reporting
Finally, a successful patient safety framework needs to address the question, “Does my report make a difference?” Employees who report incidents should feel that their concerns are heard and addressed, and that their reporting had a positive effect on safety – not only by leading to changes in care processes but also by changing staff attitudes and knowledge. (5)
The use of technology has made it easier for organizations to report safety events, as well as track the impact of reporting. Digital data-entry through an electronic incident reporting system is less time consuming than paper-based reporting and reduces the risk of human error.
Additionally, adopting an electronic solution helps supervisors manage event follow-up with centralized channels for team communication. Real-time dashboards and analytics allow teams to quickly determine underlying causes that contribute to patient safety incidents and track trends over time to proactively reduce risk.
By keeping these 3 factors in mind, healthcare organizations can successfully implement a patient safety framework to improve patient outcomes and reduce harm across the organization.
Performance Health Partner’s Solutions
Implementing an incident reporting software is an integral part of an effective patient safety framework. With Performance Health Partner’s Solutions, healthcare organizations can easily report safety events and track trends over time to deliver safe and high-quality care. To learn more, visit https://www.performancehealthus.com/patient-safety or request a demo here.