Protecting Patient Safety: How Technology Can Help Prevent Adverse Events

While “do no harm” isn’t actually part of the Hippocratic Oath, patient safety is a foundational goal of every hospital and health system. However, adverse events still occur at an alarming rate. Recently, Becker’s Hospital Review partnered with Quantros, a provider of safety risk management and reporting solutions, to release a research report on the Top 5 Reported Adverse Events in 2016. The top 5 events involve, in order:

  1. Medication

  2. Falls & Slips

  3. Admission / Transfer / Discharge

  4. Laboratory

  5. Skin Integrity

Adverse events often go hand-in-hand with poor communications. The Joint Commission has previously identified poor communications as the third most frequently identified cause of sentinel events in hospitals, behind human factors and leadership. Several of the Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals directly address communications in hospitals, and how certain areas might be targeted for improvement.

We see this adverse events list at Spok, and immediately recognize how technology solutions can have an impact on each of these areas. A healthcare communication platform can streamline workflows and improve care team communications to help prevent adverse events. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

1. Falls & Slips

I’ve been a patient that was considered a fall risk due to an injury, and I can tell you that I didn’t wait very long after hitting my nurse call button for help to the restroom before I got tired of waiting and just got up myself. I ended up making it there and back to my bed without incident, but that’s not the case for everyone. Far from it: According to The Joint Commission, nearly half of all falls results in injury, with each such injury costing the hospital around $14,000.

With the right technology in place, hospitals can route nurse calls directly to nurses’ mobile devices for quicker notification. For those nurses carrying in-house wireless phones or smartphones, they’d have the ability to call back to the patient via their pillow speaker to determine the patient’s need and prioritize their response.

2. Laboratory

Laboratory is another area of the hospital prime for communications improvement. One of The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals (02.03.01) encourages hospitals to “report critical results of tests and diagnostic procedures on a timely basis.” This applies to the lab as well as radiology: Both departments would benefit from technology that eliminates the need for someone to pick up a phone and try to reach the ordering physician, often resulting in a game of phone tag.

Critical test results management software can automate this process by taking the critical results from the LIS or RIS and automatically sending them to the mobile device of the ordering physician. This enables quicker follow up and ensures delivery of results to the clinician that needs them.

3. Admission / Transfer / Discharge

Some of the most frustrating patient experiences stem from an admission, discharge, or transfer process. When patients get frustrated, the impact is not only felt in satisfaction scores, but sometimes in safety as well. We all know that frustration may cause us to make some hasty, potentially reckless decisions, especially when we’re just tired of waiting.

During the admission process, a message can be automated to both the attending physician and assigned nurse for that patient. This way both can visit and evaluate that patient as quickly as possible to begin treatment. Once treatment within the hospital is complete and the patient is ready to leave, it’s best for both patient and the hospital to get that patient discharged. If a final consult with or approval from a specialist is the only thing standing in the way of the patient walking out the door, having current on-call schedules and a tool for messaging that specialist right in the palm of the attending physician’s hand helps expedite the process.

Take Action

Technology is no silver bullet, but it can go a long way in helping to prevent adverse events. Healthcare-grade communication software can help ensure that clinically relevant information gets to the right place, at the right time. This not only helps caregivers make more informed decisions to enhance patient safety, but the automation also speeds their response, which improves patient satisfaction.

Are any of these areas ripe for improvement in your hospital? We can help.