Patient safety, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), “is the absence of preventable harm to a patient during the process of health care and reduction of risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum... The discipline of patient safety is the coordinated efforts to prevent harm, caused by the process of health care itself, from occurring to patients."
Prioritizing safety for patients might seem like a no-brainer, but accidents happen—and it turns out they happen a lot. Consider these global statistics shared by WHO:
Some studies suggest that as many as 400,000 deaths occur in the United States each year as a result of medical errors or preventable harm to patients.
In order to do no harm and provide quality care, healthcare organizations know that innovating for improvement—while keeping safety top of mind—is key.
To amplify awareness around this important issue, we’ve selected four case studies, as shared by HIMSS Davies Award winners and/or HIMSS Stage 7 validated organizations, demonstrating the power information and technology holds in improving health outcomes and delivering better and safer patient care.
Though healthcare facilities are more often viewed as where you go to recover from illness, acquiring illness while in a healthcare setting can sometimes occur—whether as a patient, a family member or staff member. Contracting influenza from a hospital setting is just one example of a common illness contracted.
King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center (KFSH&RC) recognized there was suboptimal performance in immunizing their patient population against influenza. To minimize influenza outbreaks, their family medicine governance team and IT department collaborated on the development of protocol aimed at increasing vaccination rates over four years.
The KFSH&RC team worked together to implement new evidence-based preventative care guidelines, as well as capturing the preventative care workflow in the EMR. This way, delivering preventative care services to patients could be done more proactively than reactively.
The enterprise-wide standardization of preventative care for influenza resulted in a 631% increase in vaccines administered over four years. It also led to a decrease in sick days for staff, which helped keep the healthcare organization adequately staffed during peak flu season.
Metro Health University of Michigan Health identified an opportunity to improve communications while delivering care to stroke patients, but faced the challenges of capturing appropriate data elements and mapping detailed workflows for process improvements. They needed to enhance their EHR to capture structured data, validate the data and produce reports so that data could become actionable information that would improve patient safety.
The organization drove these process improvements through the implementation of clinical decision support tools and revamped workflows with engineered improvements like alerts and other key communication components in the EHR. Following implementation, the speed of which staff could get critical patient information to physicians increased significantly. As a result, now providers can be empowered with information about a patient experiencing stroke long before they arrive in the emergency department.
Thanks to the organization prioritizing patient safety, Metro Health lowered door-to-needle time from 53 to 29 minutes—saving roughly 48 million brain cells and improving recovery prospects after a experiencing a stroke.
In conjunction with the task force, researchers created the Prescription Reporting with Immediate Medication Utilization Mapping (PRIMUM) tool. This tool provides real-time decision support for providers by documenting clinical risk factors and alerting providers when patients at risk for opioid use disorder are identified.
To limit bias, the tool focuses on objective risk characteristics rather than subjective or anecdotal data. This may include everything from substance abuse history to dangerous interactions with other medications the patient is prescribed. It also sends notifications to prescribe Naloxone, an opioid reversal drug, for patients deemed potentially at-risk.
In the first three years, the platform has identified risk factors in 25% of patients—preventing more than 43,000 high-risk prescriptions for controlled substances system-wide.
Reducing patient falls in healthcare facilities is one of the most common patient safety challenges shared by healthcare organizations everywhere. Every year, thousands of falls occur in the U.S., and 30 to 50% of those patients sustain injuries. Not only does this add an average of six days onto a patient’s hospital stay; it can cost up to $14,000 per patient fall, the organization notes.
With this in mind, Truman Medical Centers set a goal to decrease their patient fall rate by implementing a virtual observation solution.
Remote patient monitoring cameras were installed across two Truman Medical Centers facilities. High-risk patients were identified and assigned for monitoring. Then, observation technicians were trained in communications protocol so information could be shared quickly and efficiently with care providers while monitoring. Technicians could leverage the virtual observation solution to monitor up to 14 live feeds of patient rooms at once—all from one centralized monitoring station.
As a result, fall rates decreased more than 34% following implementation. The virtual observation solution also contributed to 13,830 “good catches” or prevented falls since go-live.
It’s clear from these four examples that while patient safety can be a significant investment of time, money and other resources, the results are worth it.
The HIMSS Davies Award recognizes the thoughtful application of health information and technology to substantially improve clinical care delivery, patient outcomes and population health.
Originally published 12 March 2020; updated 20 March 2020