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Strategic planning must address patient safety

Hospital scores are falling short on patient safety but orgs in Alabama, Georgia and Florida are rolling out new initiatives to improve patient care.
By admin
Jul 14, 2022, 8:00 AM

After years of progress at the nation’s hospitals, patient safety has hit a rough patch. Statistics from The Leapfrog Group, which scores hospitals on evidence-based measures of patient safety, show what’s happening:

  • About 200,000 people die every year from hospital errors, injuries, accidents and infections.
  • Annually, 1 out of every 25 patients develops a preventable infection while in the hospital.
  • Medicare patients have a 25 percent chance of experiencing injury, harm or death when admitted to a hospital.

Representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General called hospitals’ track record “…particularly disappointing, given the last decade’s technological revolution in healthcare, with advances in electronic health records and other innovations that offer such promise to improve patient care.”

Related story: Real-time patient experience data guides innovation in the Cedars-Sinai ED

Moving forward, expect HHS and other payers to institute policies that incentivize better care while promoting clinical practice guidelines and best practices to ensure patient safety. In the interim, individual initiatives and regulatory measures guide the way toward sustainable improvement.

What’s happening in the field 

Patient safety measures are being rolled out across the country in various forms, including the following examples:

Gadsden Regional Medical Center in Alabama uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to advance patient safety during labor. The system monitors maternal vital signs, fetal heart rate, uterine contractions and labor progression, allowing clinicians to identify and quickly respond to potential safety concerns.

Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Georgia achieved designation as a Remote Treatment Stroke Center by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to patient care. When a patient presents with stroke symptoms, data can be shared among personnel from the emergency department, diagnostic imaging, emergency medical services and the intensive care unit. The facility can also receive care directives and treatment protocols through a partnership with a higher-level stroke center.

Related story: How to move healthcare cybersecurity through a patient-safety lens?

In Florida, licensed hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) face a new requirement to conduct a patient safety culture survey every two years. In addition, hospitals and ASCs need to have a patient safety program adhering to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ conditions of participation for quality assessments and performance improvement plans. Such a program must include ongoing measurement of evidence-based indicators for improving health outcomes and identifying/reducing medical errors.

Industry observers note that hospitals and health systems should strategically plan to make patient safety an imperative, emphasizing daily improvement of practices that align with operations and reinforce safety within the organizational culture.


Frank Irving is a Philadelphia-based content writer and communications consultant specializing in healthcare, technology and sports. 

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