Patient Safety as a Global Health Priority

Image by SE Healthcare

Globally, Sept 17 is celebrated as the ‘Patient Safety Day’ and was established in 2019 by WHO to attain a more focused global attention on the issue of patient safety. As per WHO, at least 5 patients die per minute resulting from unsafe care and four out of every 10 patients are harmed during primary and ambulatory healthcare. These deaths can be simply avoided by a stronger commitment to ensure safe healthcare facilities for all and adopting methods for implementing these safe practices. The personal, social and economic impact of patient harm due to these unsafe practices are immense and leads to losses of trillions of US dollars worldwide.

These are some of the statistics which highlight this grim and pertinent issue:

  1. 134 million adverse events occur each year due to unsafe care in hospitals in low and middle-income countries, resulting in 2.6 million deaths.
  2. Unsafe care is likely to be one of the 10 leading causes of death/disability worldwide.
  3. Unsafe medication practices and medication errors results in many casualties and massive amount of money being lost. Globally, the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at $42 billion per year.
  4. More than 1 million patients die annually from complications dues to surgery.
  5. Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in upto 25% of patients, affecting 7 million patients.
  6. About half of diagnostic errors – failure to identify the nature of illness – have the potential to cause several harm.
  7. 10 out of every 100 hospitalized patients will acquire one or more healthcare associated infections.

Patient Safety Day was established by WHO to bring in a patient safety culture that promotes partnership with patients, encourages reporting and learning from errors, and creates a blame-free environment where health workers are empowered and trained to reduce errors. In today’s tech heavy world where rapid advancements are being made the way healthcare is provided, patient harm due to such practices is totally unacceptable. An urgent action-plan by countries and partners around the world is required to reduce patient harm in health care. Patient safety and quality of care are essential for delivering effective health services and achieving universal health coverage.

Investment in improving patient safety can lead to significant financial savings. The cost of prevention is much lower than the cost of treatment due to harm. In the United States alone, focused safety improvements led to an estimated US$28 billion in savings in Medicare hospitals between 2010 and 2015. Greater patient involvement is the key to safer care. Engaging patients can reduce the burden of harm by up to 15%, saving billions of dollars each year.

Healthcare providers and administrators must explore opportunities to invest and implement much more safer practices to improve patient, staff and visitors safety. This will enhance awareness about patient safety and hence entail significant benefits for all the parties involved.

Sources:

https://www.who.int/

https://www.thehindu.com/

https://patientsafetymovement.org/

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