5 steps to create a culture of patient safety

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Extend legal safe harbor to medical technology companies to encourage reporting of adverse events.
  5. 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."

For more:
- read Kiani's full testimony (.pdf)
- here's the U-T San Diego opinion piece