By Michael Wong, JD (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)
This blog article celebrates Patient Safety Awareness Week. As a non-profit 501c3, the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) is dedicated to improving patient safety and improving the quality of patient care.
However, it is not just organizations like the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) American Society for Health Care Risk Management (ASHRM), or even PPAHS that are needed to improve patient safety. This responsibility lies with each and every one of us.
So, whether you are a healthcare professional (a doctor, nurse, or respiratory therapist) – or a patient (isn’t everyone a patient?), here are three ways to improve patient safety:
#1 – Improve Patient Safety By Being Cautious of Healthcare Misinformation
Patients need reliable and trusted resources to maintain and improve their health. Just because the information is on the news, in print, or on the web, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Unfortunately, not all information, news sources, healthcare professionals, politicians, or celebrities can be trusted for accurate healthcare information.
Health misinformation is all too prevalent and represents a patient safety risk. In their article published in the American Journal of Public Health, Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou (National Cancer Institute) and her colleagues discuss the alarming rise of health misinformation:
Falsehoods have been shown to spread faster and farther than accurate information, and research suggests that misinformation can have negative effects in the real world, such as amplifying controversy about vaccines and propagating unproven cancer treatments. Health misinformation on social media, therefore, urgently requires greater action from those working in public health research and practice.
In particular, misinformation about COVID-19 is a patient safety risk and has killed or hurt countless numbers of patients. In his August 12, 2021 article, David Sandman (President and CEO, New York State Health Foundation) wrote:
Lies and misinformation campaigns have fueled the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 618,000 Americans — and counting. Social media posts have promulgated conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus, the severity of the pandemic, treatment options, and, of course, vaccines …
Vaccine misinformation online was an insidious problem long before COVID-19 emerged; it won’t be easy to root it out. But, like everything related to the pandemic, we’ll succeed or fail together. And our success in finally getting the pandemic under control requires stamping out misinformation.
Healthcare misinformation is widespread, as the Kaiser Family Foundation survey found:
The information landscape about Covid-19 is bewildering, with factual and fictional claims competing for attention. And most American adults have heard at least a couple of the fictions, according to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Kaiser, which is widely respected for its top-notch work on this subject, tested eight false statements about Covid. Nearly 80% of Americans surveyed said they had heard of at least one of the falsehoods and either believed it or are unsure whether it is true.
‘Most commonly,’ the report’s authors wrote, ‘six in ten adults have heard that the government is exaggerating the number of Covid-19 deaths by counting deaths due to other factors as coronavirus deaths and either believe this to be true (38%) or aren’t sure if it’s true or false (22%).
One-third of respondents ‘believe or are unsure whether deaths due to the Covid-19 vaccine are being intentionally hidden by the government (35%),’ the authors wrote, ‘and about three in ten each believe or are unsure whether Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to cause infertility (31%) or whether Ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19 (28%).’
So, what can you do to improve patient safety for yourself or your loved ones?
Healthcare is not a political issue. Misinformation is driven by political and business reasons, and therefore represents a critical patient safety issue and should have no place in solving a healthcare issue. Actions by health organizations, scientists, and healthcare professionals are driven by science and data.
#2 – Improve Patient Safety By Reducing the Risks of Opioid-Induced Respiratory Depression
The opioid epidemic is an issue that has touched everyone’s life – everyone has a friend, a loved one, or knows someone whose life has deteriorated because of opioids.
Healthcare professionals can help end the opioid epidemic by reducing the risks of opioid-induced respiratory depression. In particular, one way that they can do this is by using the PCA Safety Checklist.
The PCA Safety Checklist reminds caregivers of the essential steps needed to be taken to initiate patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) with a patient and to continue to assess that patient’s use of PCA. The checklist was presented at major medical society annual conferences, including the International Anesthesia Research Society and the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses. This tool was developed with the help of a group of 19 renowned health experts and can be downloaded for free (as with all of PPAHS resources).
#3 – Improve Patient Safety By Reducing Maternal Morbidity
According to the CDC, the maternal death rate in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1987. Moreover, the leading causes of maternal death are hemorrhage, hypertensive disorder, pulmonary embolism, amniotic fluid embolism, infection, and pre-existing chronic conditions (such as cardiovascular disease).
To help reduce maternal mortality, please use the OB VTE Safety Checklist. The OB VTE Safety Recommendations were developed with the advice and counsel of a panel of experts brought together by PPAHS. The Recommendations provide four concise steps that:
Assess patients for VTE risk with an easy to use automated scoring system
- Provide the recommended prophylaxis regimen, depending on whether the mother is antepartum or postpartum.
- Reassesses the patient every 24 hours or upon the occurrence of a significant event, like surgery.
- Ensures that the mother is provided appropriate VTE prevention education upon hospital discharge.
To download a copy of the OB VTE Safety Recommendations, please click here.
Improve Patient Safety By Celebrating Patient Safety Awareness Week
Improve patient safety by celebrating Patient Safety Awareness Week this week and every week!
For more patient safety resources:
- To celebrate patient safety awareness week, ASHRM (American Society for Health Care Risk Management) has activities, tools, and even social media messaging and images.
- For improving diagnostic safety and preventing healthcare-associated infections, AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) has tools and resources to improve patient safety.