Patient safety is always a key focus for hospital leaders as they look to root out variation, improve the quality of care and keep costs down for customers. But this might be a better week than any to fine-tune your efforts, puff out your chest and share your successes with the rest of the field.

Sunday marked the start of Patient Safety Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday. Started by the National Patient Safety Foundation in 2002, the event gives a chance for health care providers to educate their peers and raise awareness about safe practices.

Patient engagement is all the buzz right now in the health care field and in that vein, this year's theme is "Navigate Your Health … Safely," spotlighting the need to involve consumers to help keep care safe. (For more on that, you can also check out this feature I wrote for the February issue of Hospitals & Health Networks.)

"All of us will be patients at some point in life, and we should approach that experience the way we would approach any important journey — with careful planning and communication," NPSF President Tejal Gandhi, M.D., says in a press release. "Providing safe patient care can best be achieved when patients are key members of the team and are encouraged to take an active role in their care," Gandhi says.

The NPSF is providing a series of webinars this month, starting today at 1 p.m. EST with the topic of using patient and family engagement to prevent diagnostic errors. About one in every 10 diagnoses is wrong, delayed or missed, the nonprofit points out, and such errors account for upward of 80,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

Of course, many of you are likely already excelling at safety. If that's the case, spread the word through whatever means possible, the American Hospital Association urged in an announcement to its members last month. Hospitals can do that, the AHA says, by:

  • Compiling success stories
  • Using that information as the basis for communicating with the local media, staff, community and patients this week
  • Sharing successes with the AHA so that the association can amplify what you've learned to the national level
  • Perusing the Patient Safety Awareness Week website to find suggested activities and social media post samples

Hospitals should have plenty to celebrate this week, including the huge strides they've made in improving safety through hospital engagement networks, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock pointed out in Friday's AHA News Now email to members. The AHA's Health Research & Educational Trust, working with 1,500 hospitals across the country, has helped to reduce patient harm across the delivery system through its HEN project, saving some $200 million in the process.

"Hospitals across the country are showing a fierce determination to build a culture of safety up and down the care continuum," Umbdenstock wrote. "You are conquering once-pervasive infections, eliminating procedures that don't produce the best possible outcomes, and engaging patients' families and entire communities in improving health and health care. Patient Safety Awareness Week … is the perfect time for hospitals to tell this often-overlooked story."