6 patient safety improvement opportunities

A medical worker washing her hands at a sink.
Hospitals are making progress on hand hygiene, but sepsis and antibiotic resistance are among safety concerns that still pose a significant threat. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Adverse patient safety events will drive a $383.7 billion cost burden in the U.S. and Western Europe over the next four years, according to a new report, but some of the biggest challenges also offer significant room for hospitals to find solutions. 

Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan studied 30 of the most pressing patient safety concerns and identified six it says are the top opportunity areas for improvement, including "high potential for vendor consolidation, appetite for disruptive technologies and adoption of potential innovative solutions." 

Some safety concerns included in the study—hand hygiene, for example—are already well covered by current approaches, according to the report. Overall, Frost & Sullivan estimates the 30 studied concerns have cumulatively impacted 91.8 million patient admissions in the U.S. and Western Europe and have caused 1.95 million deaths. 

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The six opportunity areas the study identified are: 

  1. Medication safety: New medication management approaches have sprouted up, and there is still plenty of room for hospitals to get on board, according to the report. Work remains on unifying health IT integration and value, however.
  2. Sepsis: Sepsis infections pose a significant challenge for hospitals, and expanding diagnostic protocols and patient monitoring could be effective solutions.
  3. Antibiotic resistance: That drug-resistant superbugs are a threat is no secret, and hospitals have already begun expanding diagnostic capabilities and infection-control strategies even as research on new antibiotics stagnates, according to the report.
  4. Cybersecurity: Providers are quickly adopting new technologies such as blockchain to protect patients' privacy.
  5. Diagnostic safety: Providers are reexamining their diagnostic approaches to reduce inaccurate diagnoses. Frost & Sullivan also expects calls for improved diagnostics to drive interest in new lab management systems.
  6. Unneeded emergency department admissions: Further emphasis on remote monitoring and telehealth to address this issue is likely, according to the report. 

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"To reap growth opportunities, care providers and market participants should target their patient safety value proposition toward low-penetration areas with significant disruption potential," said Anuj Agarwal, transformational healthcare senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, in an announcement

In addition to identifying some the key areas providers can tackle to improve patient safety, Frost & Sullivan noted several trends it expects to see in safety over the next several years. Providers will start to treat safety more like a core value statement instead of ancillary concern, according to the report, and will work to develop more guidance on risk mitigation.