A 2010 study from HHS estimates that 180,000 Medicare beneficiaries die every year from accidents and errors. “Preventable hospital errors are a terrible danger to American families and a huge driver of unnecessary health costs,” says Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, a Washington, D.C.â€“based nonprofit that assesses hospitals on national standards of safety, quality and efficiency. Some of the most innovative hospitals are implementing practical, common sense solutions to increase patient safety.
There are approximately 400,000 annual medication-related errors in hospitals that harm patients. In order to reduce the errors, hospitals like Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania are implementing a computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system, which forces doctors to enter prescriptions into the computer electronically. The system has eliminated dosage errors, and ensures that the correct patient is getting the proper medication. The system is also synchronized with the patent’s electronic medical records, so it can detect potential medication interactions and allergies.
According to the CDC, 5 to 10 percent of patients get a preventable infection in the hospital, and nearly 100,000 people die from one each year. To combat these figures, hospitals have implemented checklists to protect against central line infections, sepsis, and infectious diseases. By following simple procedures, hospital staff is able to tremendously reduce infection rates.
To reduce surgical errors, hospitals like Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota have implemented “time-outs” in which the flurry of activity around a pre-op patient stops, and the team gathers to discuss the patient, procedure, and other details. The team uses a sterile “time-out towel” over the surgical instruments, which cannot be removed until this step is completed. Some hospitals are also installing small RF chips on surgical instruments so that nothing is accidentally left behind inside a patient.
ICU’s are also undergoing a change – instead of chaos when a patient is critical, ICU staff has assigned roles, and even bedside positions that they assume to provide care. Hospitals like Virginia Mason run drills to practice these scenarios. When everyone knows his or her role, the team functions more effectively.
In newer facilities, patient safety is built into the design. Instead of being separated by flimsy curtains, patients are put into private rooms with sliding doors. Patients are more apt to share personal information if they feel comfortable that their neighbor isn’t eavesdropping. In addition, the rooms are negatively pressurized, so any potential infectious agents are pumped out of the facility instead of potentially exposing the patient in the next bed. Finally, all rooms are identical, so the staff knows exactly where the emergency equipment is located, regardless of what room the patient is in.
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