From the Five Rights Of Medication Administration and the annual National Patient Safety Goals, to internal processes and protocols, healthcare organizations are laser focused on medication safety. Yet, despite the priority it receives, medication errors are still difficult to prevent. And given the sheer numbers - 55% of Americans take at least one prescription medication, 20% of those have taken three or more, and there are 6,800 FDA approved drugs - it’s no wonder.
Medical devices enable healthcare professionals to conduct life saving procedures. But, not when those devices are out of service or not working for any reason. Although it’s impossible to achieve 100% uptime, the inspection, maintenance and safety steps biomedical clinical engineering departments support are essential to properly functioning medical devices. And the medical device labeling they perform when conducting inspections provide key data points that enable safe operating procedures.
A Johns Hopkins study suggests medical errors are the third leading cause of deaths in the U.S. The Journal of General Internal Medicine believes the number of preventable deaths are just over 22,000. Regardless of which statistic you believe is more accurate, consistently executing effective patient safety remains an ongoing challenge. And although it’s embedded into the processes and procedures of all health systems, faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health characterized patient safety improvements in hospitals as “excruciatingly slow.” But, for patient safety improvements to occur, it's essential to identify the hot spots and define improvement steps. That's the purpose of the national patient safety goals.
Although sterile compounding standards have been in place for two decades, a recent ISPM study found gaps in how organizations handled and processed those drugs. With errors ranging from an incorrect dose or concentration to incorrectly labeling the CSP, only 56% of those surveyed reported that they defined and always followed SOPs.
Care delivery is a complex process and one that compounds in complexity when variables are introduced. In fact, facilitating safe and effective care depends upon two key factors: the knowledge and skills of the clinical staff and care delivery design. That’s why healthcare organizations employ process standardization. Because as the uniformity of essential clinical care functions increases, the potential for errors decreases. That’s why care delivery design enhancements from information technology workflows to standardizing medication labels can improve patient care.
Will the fall of 2021 become known for the “twindemic?” As we approach flu and respiratory illnesses season and with hospitalizations on the rise due to the Delta variant, we’re about to find out. And with each virus sharing symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and sore throat, there are challenges ahead for healthcare providers and patients. The process changes healthcare organizations implemented for COVID are part of the solution, but the flu adds further complications. Use these steps to prepare for flu season in the time of COVID.
If the importance of hand hygiene and other infection prevention safeguards was taken for granted in healthcare settings, COVID-19 certainly intensified their importance. Masking, personal protective equipment, avoiding aerosol generating procedures when possible, handwashing and multiple other safety measures were essential to both a healthcare worker and a patient’s safety, maybe even survival. But for all the trauma the pandemic caused, some positive behavioral changes came from it, and hand hygiene is one of those areas. In fact, a JAMA Internal Medicine research study found that hand hygiene compliance reached more than 90% in March 2020. Yet in just over a year, many healthcare workers regressed to previous habits. Overall compliance dropped back to 2019 levels “averaging 50 percent across hospitals nationwide. It’s clear that regardless of all the data that highlights its importance, effective infection prevention programs remain an elusive goal.