Healthcare workers regularly follow protocols that enhance patient safety, like preventing falls and medication errors and reducing readmissions and infections. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a renewed focus on safety measures as well as new initiatives, even on a global scale, designed to improve patient well-being at every stage of care.
Have Patient Safety Goals Changed?
While many patient safety goals remain consistent over time, the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections has highlighted vulnerabilities within the healthcare system and the points of care at which errors are most likely. With widespread staffing shortages and any remaining staff potentially overworked and exhausted, the likelihood for mistakes increases. This has reiterated the need to introduce targeted safety measures that will help mitigate patient risk and reduce avoidable harm incidents whenever and wherever possible.
To help healthcare facilities in provide safer, more equitable care, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently developed a plan intended to eliminate patient harm incidents around the world within the next decade. In addition, the Joint Commission has recently released National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) that represent emerging patient safety issues.
What Are the 7 National Patient Safety Goals for Hospitals in 2021?
The Joint Commission has outlined seven patient safety goals for hospitals to focus on in 2021, including:
- Identify patients correctly. Staff should use at least two ways to verify the identity of patients, such as name and date of birth. This will reduce medication errors and ensure patients receive the prescribed treatment. It is a key safeguard for all patients, especially those who cannot communicate independently, such as newborns.
- Improve staff communication. Healthcare workers and administration leaders should work together to develop processes to report critical test results in a timely fashion.
- Use medicines safely. All medications should be clearly labeled. Nurses and other clinical staff should keep a detailed record of the patient's medications. Patients should receive written documentation about the medicines they need to take and be encouraged to update their providers of any medication changes.
- Use alarms safely. Make improvements to medical equipment alarms so that key personnel can hear and respond to them quickly.
- Prevent infection. Employees should follow the hand cleaning guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or WHO. Hospital administrators should set goals for hand cleaning and infection control and seek continuous improvement in this area.
- Identify patient safety risks. Patients may experience suicidal ideations while under care at a healthcare facility. Hospitals must mitigate the risk of suicide by performing environmental risk assessments and using relevant screening tools.
- Prevent mistakes in surgery. The correct surgery should be performed on the correct patient and at the correct place on the patient's body. Providers should clearly mark a patient's body before surgery and verified before the procedure begins.
Why Is It Important to Be Aware of Patient Safety Initiatives?
All healthcare employees and administrators should strive to stay up-to-date on the latest safety initiatives, both locally and globally. This allows you to be an active participant in the success of such measures and in identifying additional areas for improvement. Remaining aware of the patient safety issues that affect other parts of the world, including their protocols, can help shape new policies in the United States.
Improving Patient Safety
Patient safety is always top of mind. However, both the WHO and Joint Commission have recently released information to bring awareness to the latest patient safety issues. Healthcare facilities are encouraged to implement new protocols that will address these concerns and ultimately improve patient care by reducing preventable harm incidents.
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