Time for practices to improve patient safety, says American College of Physicians

Doctor looking at X-ray
It's time to turn attention to patient safety in outpatient settings, says the American College of Physicians. (Getty/bernardbodo)

While hospitals have made it a priority to improve patient safety, it’s time that physician practices step up to the plate, says one physician group.

In a new policy paper (PDF), the American College of Physicians (ACP) says more needs to be done to improve patient safety in the outpatient setting. The paper offers a set of recommendations aimed at improving patient care in office-based practices.

“In recent years, much attention has been focused on improving patient safety in hospitals,” Jack Ende, M.D., the group’s president, said in a statement. “We now must extend that focus to include the ambulatory setting. Medical errors that happen outside of the hospital are just as important to prevent.”

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A national survey released in late September reported that 1 in 5 adults have personally experienced a medical error. Indeed, the report found that errors in outpatient settings are just as prevalent, if not more so. That’s due in part to the fact that more healthcare interactions occur in outpatient than inpatient facilities, including more than 922 million physician office visits in the United States in 2013.

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The report urges the development of patient safety practices tailored to and effective in ambulatory care settings.

To do so, the group recommends: 

  • Physicians and healthcare organizations promote a culture of patient safety within their practices and among colleagues.
  • More research and work to address physician stress, burnout and organizational culture that may impact medical errors.
  • Development of standardized patient safety metrics and strategies, with attention to primary care and other ambulatory settings.
  • Encouragement of team-based care models, such as the patient-centered medical home, to improve patient safety and facilitate communication, cooperation, and information sharing among team members.


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