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7 Tips for Ensuring Patient Safety in Healthcare Settings

Nurse providing support to the patient

Each year, nearly 444,000 individuals die due to avoidable hospital errors. Fortunately, care providers, support staff, and consumers acting in unison can improve patient safety outcomes.

Through safety focused team initiatives, organizations can improve team performance. Patient safety involves avoiding errors, limiting harm, and reducing the likeliness of mistakes through planning that fosters communication, lowers infection rates, and reduces errors.

Care providers, patients, and support staff share the same goal; the best possible treatment outcome. The following seven principles outline tips that some health organizations implement to achieve this goal.

Tip 1: Establish a Safety and Health Management System

The Assessment Tool for Hospitals, published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), suggests that care providers should formulate guidelines that determine enterprise safety and health management system performance. [1] To encourage compliance with safety protocols, it is important that administrators include all managers and employees in appropriate decision-making processes and perform regular organizational performance reviews. Regular reviews provide a dynamic indicator of whether an organization has achieved intended outcomes. Furthermore, administrators can use this information to adjust organizational policies as needed.

Tip 2: Build a Rapid Response System

To aid organizations in planning rapid response systems (RRSs), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has developed TeamSTEPPS™, or Team Strategies & Tools to Enhance Performance & Patient Safety. [2] Rapid response teams (RRTs) comprise one vital part of an RRS. The AHRQ suggests that health organizations determine the overall RRS framework using STEP Assessment:

Status of the patient
Team members
Progress toward goal

TeamSTEPPS™ also outlines appropriate decision-making models for varying scenarios, such as Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA), Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), and Root Cause Analysis (RCA).

Tip 3: Make Sure That Employees Know and Understand Safety Policies

Employees and employers must understand their roles in organizational safety. [1] In addition to training each new employee about hospital safety, administrators should update staff members regularly about related policy changes. Additionally, employees must understand the duties involved with upholding patient safety. Furthermore, every medical organization should clearly outline safety policies and procedures.

Employees must feel safe to voice concerns. Therefore, along with a clearly outlined procedure for managing and reporting issues, effective safety training includes reassurance that administrators will receive information with impartiality.

Tip 4: Develop a Safety Compliance Plan

Hospital administrators continually monitor and evaluate how employees follow established policies. Institutional governing boards and boards of directors use this information to adjust organizational policies as needed. [3] Compliance programs benefit health organizations in many ways, including but not limited to:

● Building community trust as a responsible organization
● Developing compliance standards suitable for the community and organization
● Establishing a framework to evaluate employee and vendor compliance
● Maintaining insurance claim integrity
● Mitigating or eliminating illegal activity
● Promoting positive treatment outcomes
● Providing a centralized compliance outlet

By developing and maintaining a safety compliance plan, organizations—small and large—promote safe treatment environments.

Tip 5: Practice Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care is a hot topic among debates about service quality. [4] Health administrators, hospital media communication, and legislators use the catch phrase often. In fact, insurers linked payouts, in part, to the degree that care facilities adopted patient-centered care well before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

In the past, health advocates worried that the philosophy might undermine efforts to provide evidence-based treatments. Today, however, evidence-based treatment supporters view patient-centered care as a critical framework for establishing and promoting desired wellness outcomes.

Tip 6: Communicate Safety Information to Patients

Historically, consumers played a passive role in their recoveries and, with vague comprehension, followed treatment plans unquestioningly. [5] In this environment, patients placed absolute trust in care providers. Today, however, practitioners understand that educated patients can assist in reducing medical errors. Additionally, with the wealth of information available online, it is important that patients understand what health-related facts apply to their unique circumstances.

Contemporary patients increasingly participate in their own recovery planning. As educated consumers, they receive safer treatment, because care providers and health advocates have empowered them with the ability to ask the right questions and notice potential problems.

Tip 7: Incorporate Safe Hospital Design

Traditional hospital design focused on operational efficiency rather than patient safety, designating interconnected work areas in close proximity. [6] However, patient-centered building design includes structural characteristics such as air quality, critical information proximity, noise dampening, and standardized feature locations, as well as fixtures that reduce contagion spread, such as employee hand sinks, in all treatment areas. Additionally, engineers design modern hospitals with wiring that supports advanced technology that reduces errors, with extra emphasis placed on areas designated as drug dispensaries. Most importantly, safe building designs incorporate planning to measure and benchmark facility conditions and characteristics, such as ease of information access, noise levels, scalability, and other factors.

Patients, employees, and administrators can eliminate most hospital errors by working as a team. However, it takes planning, commitment and work to maintain a safe hospital environment.

Learn More

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Recommended Readings

Improving Patient Care through Clinical Integration
Improving Patient Safety
Making Predictive Analytics a Routine Part of Patient Care in Hospitals


[1] Occupational Safety and Health Administration

[2] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

[3] Office of the Inspector General

[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

[5] National Center for Biotechnology Information

[6] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – Creating a Culture of Patient Safety