Posted By Hope Alfaro On May 11, 2017
Patient safety can mean a lot of things depending on your public health department or community health center. But at its core, patient safety is about how your organization prevents and protects patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections. While often considered an issue for hospitals or facilities with impatient care, patient safety can and should be a top concern with any health organization actively seeing patients. Whether you’ve been working on improving patient safety continuously or are just getting started, here are a few areas to look at for the best results.
Reassess your Workflows
A busy clinic is a prime area for mistakes that can lead to accidents or injury. While it is necessary to see as many patients as possible for health departments and health centers, it is also important to know where your clinic is the busiest. The busier an area gets, the more likely proper processes and procedures will get left behind. If it has been awhile since you have updated your processes or observed your clinic flow, now is a great time to conduct a workflow assessment on your center.
Check for Bottle Necks
In every healthcare organization, there are areas that require more time and personnel and often lead to bottle necks in clinic workflow. These are great areas to start to evaluate whether or not work arounds are being used or if there is a better way to keep the system flowing while focusing on areas that need improvement. Does one area need an extra set of hands that another area has and doesn’t need? Knowing where weak points are will help you create remedies to ensure patient safety
Good communication is key for clinicians to improve their patient safety objectives. Even when mistakes are made, if there is a team strategy in place, they can be caught before causing any harm to patients. Knowing who else is involved in patient care will allow clinicians to see all information for any given patient.
An important support for communication in your health center or public health department is an inclusion of healthcare IT including electronic health records. Along with patient data and previous treatments, you can communicate and share information with a patient’s care team with much greater ease and efficiency
Certified Electronic Health Record
Remember first, though, that not all EHRs are created equal. It is important when researching and selecting an EHR you note that it is a federally certified EHR. There are already patient safety measures built in to receiving ONC Health IT certification, so you know that your EHR already has these measures in place.
State and Regional HIE
Getting connected to your state or regional Health Information Exchanges (HIE) is another great way to support information sharing and keep patients safe. The more knowledge you have about individual patients, the more likely you can prevent accidents and errors in patient care. This measure is already being required in some states for this very reason. Now is the time to get ahead of requirements and connect to your HIE today.
E-prescribing and Drug Interactions
Drug interactions and contraindications are one of the top reasons for patient injury and harm in any type of healthcare organization. Your EHR should have options for real-time drug interaction and contraindication checking to avoid these costly mistakes. E-Prescribing is also a great way to make sure that your patients medicines make it to either your in-house pharmacy or their pharmacy of choice to improve the chances of them getting and taking their medicine.
Engage patients in patient safety
Patient safety isn’t just up to clinicians. Making sure patients are informed and engaged in their own care can make them part of their own health team instead of a bystander. Engaged patients are more likely to inform their providers of issues or problems and provide more information that will help keep them safe. Utilize a patient portal for easy communication from patients as well as educational materials they can access easily. Ultimately it is in your patients best interest to get them as involved as possible in their own care.
Knowing your clinics pain points and keeping everyone in-the-know are the best ways for improving patient safety in your health facility. Utilizing Healthcare IT like federally certified EHR solutions can help in both places and many more. As more Meaningful Use mandates come down the pipeline, now is the time to make sure you are make every effort to keep your patients free from harm.
For more information about workflow assessment, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Qualities Workflow Assessment Health IT Toolkit
To check if your EHR is ONC certified, visit https://chpl.healthit.gov/#/search