Although hospitals have put in place patient safety programs aimed to reduce hospital-acquired infections, further steps are necessary to prevent avoidable patient deaths, a leading patient safety advocate urged in an opinion piece in U-T San Diego.
Joe Kiani, founder of The Patient Safety Movement Foundation, recently appeared before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, recommending steps Congress can take to encourage transparency, best practices and the development of a "patient data super highway" to reduce preventable deaths.
He suggests the following five steps to create a culture of patient safety and prevent avoidable patient deaths:
- Develop a system of transparency. The government needs to lead in the creation of a standardized process for hospitals to define, measure and report healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) and healthcare-acquired conditions (HAC). Kiani called for Congress to require hospitals to publicly report HAI and HAC rates to facilitate quality comparisons.
- Create incentives and disincentives. He suggests Congress suspend payments to hospitals that don't have evidence-based strategies for prevention and shield hospitals that do implement evidence-based practices from malpractice lawsuits through an affirmative defense and limits on damages.
- Establish a "patient data super highway" so hospitals can openly share data with each other, patients and all parties that can use the information to improve patient safety.
- Extend legal safe harbor to medical technology companies to encourage reporting of adverse events.
- Assign a patient advocate to every hospital so patients and their families have someone to turn to if they experience a lack of empathy or problems with communication related to their care.
"Creating a culture of safety begins with one solution, one commitment, one hospital, one act of kindness and love, and one patient at a time," Kiani wrote, adding, "We have it in our power to do the right thing and take steps to eliminate preventable patient deaths, starting now."