As we celebrate another Patient Safety Awareness Week this week (March 12
2017) take a moment to think about what patient safety means to you. It doesn't mean wear red, or a pink ribbon. There are no walks, runs or marathons to raise awareness or money for patient safety research. There are, however, many people who practice patient safety and many people who have been affected by patient safety.
Medication safety: While funding is going towards helping people who are addicted or dependent on pain medication, there isn't funding allotted towards providing education
before someone gets a prescription, such as could be offered in high schools or community organizations. Many people have become dependent following surgery, a dental procedure or even a sports injury. A person as young as in the eighth grade should learn about safe medication use. Understanding medication safety is an important part of patient safety.
Each year thousands of people die from healthcare-associated infections, and millions are harmed. There are many types of infection according to the
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
such as central line bloodstream, catheter-associated, ventilator, pneumonia, and surgical site infections. The CDC describes these infections and others as an important threat to patient safety. So why doesn't the public know more about it? Understanding infections is an important topic of patient safety.
Health literacy and communication: It's up to your healthcare team to diagnose your problem and design your care and medication plans, but isn't it the patient's responsibility to speak up and ask questions if anything in that conversation is unclear? "Teach back" by repeating what you heard will help you understand the information being given to you. This isn't about being smart; it's about how people understand each other. Often a clinician would have to ask advice when talking to a computer programmer, plumber, or an electrician. It's no different for you as a patient: you should never be embarrassed to ask for clarification of something you don't understand.
Patient safety takes many forms and until patients and their families take more responsibility for their own safety, we will never be able to meet health care providers half way, to achieve safer care. This Patient Safety Awareness Week, choose a family member or friend who will help keep you safe when the time comes.
Ilene Corina, President