Four Ways to Improve Patient Safety in Hospitals
You want nothing more than to provide patients with the best possible care in your hospital, but your hospital may be unintentionally putting patients at risk. The following four strategies could end up saving lives and reducing operating costs, which allows you to provide even better care.
Whichever strategies you decide to adopt for your hospital, be sure that you follow through with them by creating a culture of compliance. Include initial and follow-up training sessions on new protocols when necessary, and demand open communication between hospital staff.
- Take advantage of patient wristbands.
Wristbands with patient information are common in hospitals, but not every hospital takes full advantage of the system. Standard data to include are the patient’s name and other identifying information, such as medical record number and physician of contact. However, hospitals can improve patient safety by using wristbands for more than identification.A color-coded alert system lets healthcare workers know immediately if a patient has certain standard risks, such as allergies or danger of falling. That way, workers can save time when they need to provide care because they do not need to look this information up on a chart or in an electronic system.Patient identification information should be on a clear wristband to avoid confusion with health warnings. Health warnings should be on color-coded wristbands, preferably with standardized colors for each health risk. Pennsylvania is the first state that implemented a standardized color-coded alert system for hospital patients. It uses these colors:
- Green for latex allergies.
- Red for other allergies.
- Yellow as a warning the patient can easily fall.
- Blue to indicate not to resuscitate (DNR).
- Pink as a limb alert to ensure that no cuffs or needles are applied to the affected limb.
- Use proper protective gear.
Healthcare workers can help stop the spread of infections by using barrier precautions in certain situations. Require caregivers to wear gowns and gloves when caring for patients with serious nosocomial infections. Be sure to provide adequate gowns and gloves and make them readily available to encourage compliance. This precaution can reduce the spread of these infections by over 50 percent in intensive care units.
- Enforce proper hand washing.
Proper hand washing could save lives and reduce healthcare costs by reducing infections. Up to 30 percent of hospital-acquired infections may be preventable, and proper hygiene could dramatically reduce diarrhea and infections in the hospital setting. Implementing and enforcing a good hand-washing program in your hospital could pay off in a big way.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides resources for hospitals and other healthcare settings that are looking to implement better hand washing systems. Resources include a self-assessment for your hospital and guidelines for hand washing, including proper technique and when it is necessary.Once hospital staff are properly trained in hand-washing techniques, you can maintain the gains by creating a culture of compliance throughout the hospital.
- Set up hand washing stations or place hand sanitizer in patient rooms, treatment areas, labs and any other site in the hospital where healthcare workers may come into contact with patients.
- Display posters in these same areas with hand-washing reminders.
- Post fliers asking patients to speak up if they see healthcare workers begin treatment without washing their hands.
- Let your staff know that they should remind each other to wash hands.
- Don’t ignore hospital discharges.
Patients may be ready to leave the hospital, but they are not necessarily in the clear. Designate a staff member to work with patients in the discharge process. Patients should receive clear instructions about medications, whom to call if there is a problem, and information about their next appointments. These steps can reduce hospital readmissions by nearly one-third.Your hospital strives to provide the best patient care, but it may be inadvertently putting patients at risk. Many hospitals can make simple changes to reduce these risks. These seemingly minor changes are inexpensive and well worth the time because of their payoffs in better patient health and lower operating costs.
About the author:
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label designs packing slips, shipping labels, Adcura Healthcare products and more, that deliver solutions to a broad range of industries including retail, industrial, manufacturing, distribution and medical environments.