In reflecting on Patient Safety Awareness Week, it is important to note the heroes who focus on the safety of their patients 365 days a year: doctors, nurses, biomedical engineers, clinical engineers, biomedical equipment technicians, respiratory therapists, rehabilitation experts, nutritionists, pharmacists, laboratory specialists, central sterilization professionals, paramedics—and I know I am missing so many more!!
Included in this list, though, must be all the support people who work in hospitals and outpatient treatment facilities—from the administrative personnel who keep things running smoothly and who follow up with the patients to check on their progress, to the cleaning crews who keep the environments safe and healthy. Additionally, the family members who help care for their loved ones are critically important to patient safety, as are all the different types of professionals involved in home healthcare and hospice.
All of these people make every day “patient safety day” to the best of their abilities, but they experience first-hand the frustrations and barriers to providing that great care. Those hurdles include budget cuts, poor decisions about healthcare technology procurement, devices that are not designed to be highly intuitive to use, the inadequate preparation of clinicians to use complex technology, the absence of a culture of safety, a lack of reporting when safety problems occur; a failure to adopt a systems approach to all aspects of the spectrum of care and technology, and a vacuum among senior leadership in addressing safety issues—whether it is reducing non-actionable clinical alarms, promoting the continuous monitoring of patients on opioids, or ensuring infusion therapy safety. Sadly, I’m sure all readers can think of many, many more.
In working for AAMI and the AAMI Foundation over the past two-and-a-half years, I am constantly amazed at the great work our staff and our incredibly talented, committed, and generous volunteers are able to accomplish in helping the healthcare technology management and healthcare provider communities address some of the above-cited problems and barriers they face. Healthcare technology has truly become the backbone of patient care. More and more attention and resources need to be focused on designing, developing, using, and maintaining that technology that touches all of our lives.
My wish for next year’s Patient Safety Awareness Week is a set of new statistics that says how far we have come in improving patient safety related to healthcare technology issues. These statistics would show the following:
- All healthcare technology is well designed and highly intuitive to use.
- No patient is harmed by clinical alarm-related issues.
- All patients on parenteral opioids are continuously monitored.
- No medication errors occur related to infusion therapy.
- All clinicians are well prepared to use complex technology.
What statistics would you add to this list?
Marilyn Neder Flack is senior vice president of patient safety initiatives and executive director of the AAMI Foundation.