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3 Things to Know About National Patient Safety Goals

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The Joint Commission outlines goals designed to aid health care administrators in improving patient safety. In the United States, health care professionals recognize the Joint Commission as a leader in helping organizations achieve optimal performance. [1] Initiatives such as Hospital National Patient Safety Goals (HNPSG) and National Quality Improvement Goals (NQIG) improve the safety of health care services for patients in the United States. [2] The programs guide health care administrators in identifying and resolving medical safety and quality issues. The Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a nationwide authority that certifies care provider facilities, oversees both initiatives.

1. The Joint Commission’s Role in Patient Safety

The Joint Commission distributes NQIG results in a publication called the Quality Report. The commission published the first report in 2004 and has issued a new Quality Report each following fiscal quarter. The report uses information gathered from every qualifying health care facility in the United States. Health care administrators rely on this information to learn how their organization fares compared to competitors and identify opportunities for improvement.

Hospital National Patient Safety Goals guide care provider organizations in delivering medical services. [1] The program recommends that care providers use a minimum of two ways to identify individuals to ensure that patients receive appropriate treatments, such as names, birthdates, or other distinguishing information. HNPSG guidelines also suggest that care providers ensure that test results find their way to relevant medical professionals in a timely manner.

The initiative recommends that care providers make sure that all drugs are labeled clearly. The Hospital National Patient Safety Goals also call for increased caution when treating individuals with different diagnosis. An example of this would be for someone who requires medication to thin their blood. In situations like this, care providers maintain and share accurate information regarding patient prescription histories.

Furthermore, HNPSG recommends that care providers incorporate hand-cleaning policies established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spread of infections. The program also suggests that health care administrators identify and implement medical best practices for managing and treating persistent infections, infections in central blood lines, post-surgery infections, and urinary tract infections caused by catheters.

2. Errors Raise Medical Costs

In addition to placing patients at risk, medical errors generate unnecessary added expenses, a circumstance that has garnered national attention. The Joint Commission reports that the amount of medical errors that occur in United States health care facilities remains unacceptably high. An evaluation of a 700-bed health care training facility revealed that every two out of 100 patients experienced an avoidable adverse drug reaction, resulting in increased costs of $4,700 per admission, which totaled $2.8 million for the year. These kinds of research results have raised awareness regarding patient safety across the nation, resulting in increased adoption of technologies and procedures that reduce errors. As an example, all drug manufacturers now print bar codes on medications. Although best practices are put in place, health care organizations have yet to develop widely adopted prescription safety checkpoints.

3. Mobile Technology Reduces Errors

Some care provider organizations have adopted the use of mobile technology to reduce errors in the clinical environment. [3] Mobile technologies increase nursing efficiency and recordkeeping as well as patient safety. Because care providers make fewer errors using the technology, medical facilities that adopt mobile technologies experience cost savings in the form of reduced legal expenses and fewer regulatory fines.

In clinical practices, care providers issue bracelets with a barcode during patient admission. Nurses then use a mobile computer to scan bracelets and retrieve information concerning patients’ conditions. By using the bracelets to link patient information to a centralized database, nurses can receive an automated warning if a physician prescribes drugs that will cause an adverse reaction.

Mobile patient information technologies deliver quantifiable benefits. Care providers can retrieve timely, precise patient information and reduce the risk of medical errors. This benefit saves care provider organizations time and effort. Moreover, nurses have more time to care for patients when fewer errors occur. In the back office, health care administrators spend less time completing tasks related to medical errors and can devote more attention to achieving organizational objectives. In short, technological advancements such as mobile devices enable providers to deliver the right services to the right patients at the right time.

Health care administrators have noticed the enhanced threat that medical errors pose to patients and communities. However, public safety is a concern for all professionals who work in medicine. With this in mind, health care administrators should remember that safety is the responsibility of not only nurses and physicians but all staff members who work at facilities that deliver treatments.

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[1] The Joint Commission – Guidelines for Publicizing Hospital NQIGs
[2] The Joint Commission – Hospital: 2017 National Patient Safety Goals
[3] – Safer Patient Care