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Patient safety: A shared responsibility

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Patients visit hospitals with the hope that they will be cured of their illnesses. They put their full trust in the healthcare system to relieve them of their discomfort. It is therefore the responsibility of the healthcare system to ensure that the patient’s safety is maintained, and they don’t go back with an illness they did not have in the first place.

From a distance, it looks like healthcare has always been patient-centered. After all, the focus is on healing the patient. But up close, the view can be pretty different, as many who have ever received or delivered care know.

In a landmark report in 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IoM) estimated that annually in the United States, up to one million people were injured and 98,000 died as a result of medical errors.

In 2015, IoM’s report estimated the number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients to be 400,000 per year, and that serious harm appeared to be 10 to 20 times more common versus the deaths.

An annual estimate of 400,000 deaths and four to eight million occurrences of serious harm per year translate to 1,096 deaths and around 11,000 to 21,000 occurrences of serious harm.

To put it in perspective, the number of deaths would be the same as three 747 airplanes crashing each day!

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation in Irvine, California indicates that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US, and 14th across the globe.

The healthcare industry has drawn lessons from other high-risk industries such as commercial aviation and oil and gas industry about culture, high reliability and systems safety.

The Journal of Medical Ethics reviewed the status of healthcare, arguing that it has a much higher level of accidents and has a reactive culture, lagging behind high-risk industries in both attitude and systematic management of patient risks.

An increasing number of studies are showing that patient experience is linked to quality outcomes and patient safety. It is important to note that patient experience is never catering to patients’ every whim. Rather it is about understanding what’s important to patients — safety, communication, service, quality care, access — and incorporating those things into the hospital’s day-to-day operations.

There is a need to focus on patient experience because it is the right thing to do. This is why patient experience, driven by clinical quality and patient safety, must continue to be the highest level of importance in every healthcare system.

Every patient has an experience. Every patient has a story. It can be yours or mine.

Marilen Tronqued-Lagniton is an expert on blending patient, doctor and customer needs with hospital culture and in developing patient experience monitoring and measurement tools. She is currently a consultant at De Los Santos Medical Center and Trinity University of Asia.

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