Use patients, families as experts to improve quality

Hospitals could improve quality and safety if they engaged patients and their families in improvement initiatives, experts say.

Patients and family members "possess intricate knowledge and vastly different perspectives on care processes, communication and coordination systems," H&HN Daily reported, citing discussion from the Quality & Patient Safety Roadmap hosted by the American Hospital Association's Symposium for Leaders in Healthcare Quality.

But most hospitals haven't been able to leverage that "huge untapped potential" for improvement initiatives because they haven't effectively engaged patients and families, according to the roadmap.

One hospital system that has had success is Vidant Health in Greenville, N.C., which involves patient and family advisers "from the bedside to the boardroom," Vidant adviser Dorothea Handron says in the H&HN article. They participate on quality teams, review patient materials, join safety rounds, help with facility design and development of the electronic health record patient portal, and formally advise the board. As a result, Vidant reports it has reduced serious safety events by 83 percent and hospital-acquired infections by 62 percent.

Roadmap discussion also focused on "hardwiring processes" such as checklists into the organizational culture to build high-reliability organizations, H&HN reported.

High-reliability organizations "employ human factors integration; they make it obvious to do the right thing and impossible to do the wrong thing," according to the article. "As a result, processes are immune to inevitable human errors."

Other medical groups also are studying how to build high-reliability organizations. American Anesthesiology focused its efforts on the operating room (OR), where it recommended empowering patient-safety champions who train the rest of the OR team to develop a safety-first culture.

In Connecticut, hospitals are taking a page from the aviation and nuclear-power sectors to develop systemic routines that reduce medical errors and improve safety and patient experience.

 For more information:
- here's the H&HN Daily article

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