Patient Safety Tips
Patient safety is a pressing issue in hospitals,
with medical error being one of the leading causes of death
and injury in the United States—causing as many as
44,000 to 98,000 deaths per year in hospitals, according
to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine. Practitioners
can take the following ten steps to improve patient safety
in the hospital.
- Accurately identify patients.
Use effective communication among caregivers.
- Use at
least two patient identifiers, particularly when administering
medications or blood products, taking blood samples and
other specimens for clinical testing, or providing any
other treatments or procedures.
- Never use the patient’s
room number as an identifier.
Safely administer medication.
conveying verbal or telephone orders and critical test
results, verify the complete information by having the
person receiving the information repeat it for you.
timely in reporting test results and values to caregivers.
- To encourage effective communications, it helps to
standardize a procedure for passing along communications, which includes
the opportunity to ask and respond to questions.Additionally,
hospitals should assist staff in preventing miscommunication
by keeping a standardized list of abbreviations, acronyms,
and symbols that should not be used because they can be
- Use medications
and medication containers that are labeled, including syringes
and medicine cups.
- Review the drugs used by the hospital
that look alike or have similar-sounding names to prevent
Document medications across the continuum
- Simply following
recommendations for proper hand hygiene, hospital staff
can put a stop to outbreaks, reduce the transmission of
antimicrobial resistant organisms, and lower overall infection
rates in the hospital. For best practices in hand hygiene,
use the hand hygiene guidelines from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Periodically assess the patient’s
risk of falling.
- Ensure the hospital receives an up-to-date
list of the patient’s current medications upon the patient’s
admission. Accuracy and completeness are critical. If the
patient is transferred, this list should be reconciled
with any changes in medication received at the hospital
and passed along to the new setting with the patient.
Eliminate the risk of wrong-site, wrong-patient,
- Assess and regularly reassess a patient's
risk for falling. Some predictors include: mobility issues,
cognitive impairment, confusion, attached equipment, and
medication regime. Hypnotics, sedatives, analgesics, psychotropics,
antihypertensives, laxatives and diuretics are associated
with the risk of falling. Take action to address any identified
risks through physical measures, psychological measures,
and environmental measures, such as exercise, pain management,
orientations to the surroundings, bed adaptations and side
rails. Also, alert the patient, family and staff of the
Address the risk of influenza and pneumococcal
disease in older adults.
- Create and use a protocol that
verifies the site, patient, and procedure beforehand. The
protocol should include confirmation of key documents,
such as medical records. Also, involve the patient in a
process to mark the surgical site in preparation for the
surgery. View the universal
protocol provided by The Joint Commission.
Encourage the active involvement of
patients and their families in their health care.
- It can take more than generating
awareness that vaccines are available to adequately protect
- Develop a protocol for administrating
the flu vaccine and pneumococcus vaccine in older adults
that includes a process for documentation. The Center for
Disease Control and Prevention provides some recommended
strategies for increasing adult vaccinations from
its Web site.
Discuss with the patient how they can
report concerns about safety and encourage them to do so.
time explaining information about a patient’s medical
condition and procedures. Importantly, schedule time to
ask and respond to any questions the patient or family
members may have. Patients play an important role in their
own health. Families can be equally important to educate
because of the medical care and emotional support they
give the patient outside the hospital.
Practitioners can take action for patient
safety by paying attention to these key areas identified by
the National Patient Safety Goals. For more information, consult
The Joint Commission
which provides National
Patient Safety Goals that instruct hospitals on critical
areas and solutions that can prevent medical errors from occurring.
- Always encourage patients to speak up
if they have questions or concerns. For example, a patient
should speak up if they experience reactions after receiving
medication at the hospital. The Joint Commission sponsors the Speak
UpTM initiative to educate patients on the importance
of raising a voice. Posting the brochures and poster are
reminders and displays of support for the patient taking
a role in their healthcare.