OK, I realize there are only five days left in Patient Safety Awareness Week. But even if, like me, you spent Sunday watching basketball on TV and yesterday celebrating Casimir Pulaski Day (hey, it's a big deal here in Chicago), there's still plenty of stuff going on through Saturday to help hospitals raise staff and public awareness about quality and safety. The National Patient Safety Foundation is leading the activities.

A highlight this year is the introduction of a board certification that recognizes patient safety as a critical field of medicine. The Certification Board for Professionals in Patient Safety created an evidence-based examination, which was offered for the first time yesterday; anyone who passes it will be credentialed as — perhaps not surprisingly — a Certified Professional in Patient Safety. Candidates can come from any area of health care but must demonstrate knowledge of a wide range of patient safety topics.

NPSF also launched an online patient safety curriculum that it says "provides essential, foundational knowledge about the context, key principles and competencies associated with the patient safety discipline — and how to apply them in everyday practice." The self-paced course includes an introduction by Lucian Leape, M.D.; 10 modules with lectures by "distinguished faculty;" and continuing education credits. It can also be used to prepare for board certification.

The foundation is releasing a new video from its Ask Me 3 program to encourage patients to ask their providers — and understand the answers to — three questions: 1) What is my main problem? 2) What do I need to do? 3) Why is it important for me to do this? The video is available for free on the NPSF website.

At 1 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow, NPSF will host a live Twitter chatfor providers and patients about patient engagement. Foundation staff will answer questions, offer tips and provide links to resources. Use the hashtag #PSAW2012 to join the conversation.

Other groups are doing their own thing for National Patient Safety Awareness Week. For example, ECRI Institute is blogging daily on such related issues as preventing missed or delayed diagnoses and using collaborative processes. "Raising awareness with every caregiver can really help organizations get to the point where patient safety is ‘just the way we do things,' " says blog contributor Paul A. Anderson, ECRI's director of risk management publications.

And the American Medical Association has introduced a new medication disposal guide to help patients understand when and how to get rid of their prescription drugs and which ones are safe or unsafe to use together. The guide also offers ways to keep potentially harmful medications out of public water supplies, away from small children who may accidentally ingest them, and out of the hands of teenagers who may misuse them.

The American Hospital Association, through its Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative, also has a host of materials online aimed at helping hospitals improve patient safety and quality of care.

I welcome your feedback. Email me at bsantamour@healthforum.com.