Healthcare delivery is an increasingly complex process. Successful treatment for a patient no longer rests on a single individual, rather it rests on a chain of factors dependent on healthcare workers as well as technology. Given the intricacies in the system, and the challenges within, medical errors and technological glitches have seeped in to risk what we fear most during hospitalization: patient safety.
Challenges to Patient Safety
Five focus group discussions with 16 doctors and 20 nurses from healthcare centers in Kerala revealed 129 different mentions of barriers to patient safety, according to an article published by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine. These barriers were then categorized into five main challenges:
Limited resources: Participants from the focus groups listed some of the limited resources they had to work with: inadequate staffing, poor or limited access to supplies, poor infrastructure for patient movement, or lack of sufficient hygiene measures that could lead to health care–acquired infections.
Healthcare delivery systems: A prime concern for both doctors and nurses in the groups was the fragmentation in the system for the delivery and quality of drugs. Quality and varying dosage were often key concerns, particularly for high-alert medications (drugs that bear a higher risk of causing significant patient harm when used in error).
Lack of training for healthcare providers: Healthcare workers, nurses in particular, mentioned lack of clinical experience and training owing to the absence of time and a systematic method of selection and training.
Patient education: And finally, an almost self-imposed barrier – patient behavior. Participants from the groups talked about patients’ inclination to overuse medicines or to consume medication based on perception rather than prescription.
Patient Safety Initiatives in Healthcare
5.2 million errors tend to get buried among the millions treated successfully, unless the media or social media highlight incidences of negligent patient care. These incidents often make you pause and reflect on medical treatment you’ve been through, sometimes unsatisfied with the care delivered, but accepting it nevertheless as just how the system functions as far as there are no adverse effects or extreme process failures like wrong-site surgery (when a surgery is performed on the wrong patient or the wrong procedure is performed on a patient).
As we step into a week that promotes Patient Safety Awareness, let’s talk about patient safety goals both big and small, so everyone knows where the system is headed:
- Improve effective communication in the process of healthcare delivery
- Improve the safety of high-alert medications for preventing medication errors
- Identify patients correctly
- Eliminate wrong-site surgeries
- Reduce the risk of healthcare–acquired infections
- Reduce the risk of patient harm resulting from falls
- Routine audits and proactive risk assessment of the hazards
- A conducive environment for a culture of safety
- Streamlining healthcare delivery systems
- National Health Systems Resource Centre
- World Health Organization
- Indian Journal of Community Medicine