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Progress in healthcare comes from people like you

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Patient safety has become such a core element of healthcare that you might be forgiven for thinking it had always been a priority for healthcare providers and health professional

But the issue didn’t attract much attention until a US study published in 1991 revealed that 3.7% of hospitalisations in a sample of over 30,000 resulted in adverse events, around 16% (4,800) of which resulted in permanent total disability or death.

The authors extrapolated their findings and suggested this equated to over 98,000 patients experiencing adverse events in New York in a single year. Disturbingly, they also found that over a quarter of adverse events resulted from negligence.

”Sometimes relatively simple ideas can have a huge effect”

The study is widely credited with bringing the issue of patient safety to the attention of providers and professionals, and kickstarting the patient safety movement. This is credited with preventing thousands of deaths and serious disabilities.

While many patient safety strategies involve changing entire systems or introducing expensive new technologies, sometimes relatively simple ideas can have a huge effect.

An Australian team of nurse researchers recently found that using ultrasound in placing peripherally inserted central catheters, and ensuring the catheters occupied less than 45% of the width of the selected vein reduces the risk of venous thromboembolism.

”Often the source of practical ideas like this come from frontline health professionals”

Often the source of practical ideas like this come from frontline health professionals thinking creatively about resolving problems using existing resources. But how many of them go completely unrecognised or are only adopted locally because they are not disseminated?

If you have an idea that might improve patient safety, or the effectiveness or efficiency of the care you provide, don’t assume someone else must already have thought of it. It may need further investigation to prove its efficacy, and not all ideas make it into widespread practice, but healthcare progresses in small steps as well as giant leaps, and it relies on individuals having the confidence to share their inspiration.

Visit our Patient Safety clinical zone

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