Preventable errors are estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately $187.5 billion to $250 billion annually. (1) An effective patient safety solution and risk management programs can improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and decrease preventable errors all at the same time. 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)
Improving the culture of safety within a healthcare environment is a key component of preventing errors and improving the overall quality of care. (3) Organizations that do not prioritize a just patient safety culture are more likely to experience (2):
- Higher rates of patient harm
- Underreported safety events
- Increased costs
The following 5 steps offer a framework for establishing an effective patient safety culture:
1. Define Clear Safety Policies
Organizations are expected to adhere to policies that support their safety culture. Systems and processes should be put in place for the reporting of adverse events or other unsafe conditions that lead to patient injury.
In the United States, over 250,000 patients who receive medical care each year experience an adverse event, and over 100,000 patients die as a result of these harmful events. (4)
This includes using clear and transparent risk-based processes for recognizing human errors and system errors. Clearly communicating and enforcing these policies among all team members helps ensure that every employee understands his or her role in organizational safety. (5)
2. Encourage a Blame Free Environment
Medical errors and safety events often go unreported by healthcare staff for fear of retribution or punishment. In order to improve patient safety, healthcare organizations must encourage open communication among care teams, so that all employees feel safe reporting events. Shifting from a culture of blame to a culture of encouragement places the focus on identifying potential solutions in order to prevent future incidents. (6)
3. Involve Patients in Safety Initiatives
Patient engagement is an integral part of reducing medical errors in healthcare settings. Patients who are educated on their health conditions and treatment plans are able to make more informed decisions about their care options. (5) These patients tend to receive safer care because they are empowered with the ability to ask the right questions and indicate problems. Additionally, patients and families often feel valued when they are involved in processes such as safety checks and multidisciplinary rounds. (7)
During a typical hospital stay, a patient may interact with a number of different employees. In order to maintain high-quality outcomes, it’s important for organizations to ensure that every interaction with their health system is as positive as possible. Utilizing a patient relations software solution with dashboards and drill-through analytics can help streamline the patient feedback loop, making it easy for leadership teams to implement feedback.
4. Determine a Baseline Measure for Safety Performance
An effective patient safety initiative is one that is easily measurable. Healthcare organizations are responsible for determining a baseline for safety culture performance that can be measured using a validated tool. (8) Safety culture is generally measured through surveys or assessments that ask providers to rate the safety compliance in their unit as well as the organization as a whole. These survey results can be analyzed across departments to find opportunities for safety improvement. (9)
5. Establish a Routine for Assessing Strengths and Weaknesses
Leadership teams must establish a procedure for regularly assessing system strengths and vulnerabilities, and prioritizing them for improvement. This involves taking a proactive approach to search for potential breakdowns in safety performance. These potential breakdowns can then be addressed to consistently ensure patient safety. (9)
Using an incident reporting system can help reduce harmful patient safety incidents. For example, an incident reporting software can pinpoint exactly where the majority of patient falls are occurring, down to the location and specific department. Understanding this information could prompt further training on proper fall protocol or prevention measures for that department.
In order to provide the highest quality care in the safest possible environment, all healthcare organizations should prioritize establishing a patient safety culture.
Performance Health Partner’s Incident Reporting System
Implementing incident reporting software is an integral part of establishing an effective patient safety culture. With Performance Health Partner’s Incident Reporting System, healthcare organizations can take action against the harmful effects of safety incidents, while focusing on improving the quality of the care experience.