SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Creating a safe environment for patients and hospital staff is something all health care leaders embrace. And while the field hasn’t completed the patient safety journey, don't get discouraged, says a leading figure in patient safety.national-patient-safety-foundation-kaveh-shajania

“Safety is a young field, so we shouldn't be completely disheartened that we haven’t solved the problem in 15 years,” said Tejal Gandhi, M.D., president and CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation, at its 18th annual Patient Safety Congress on Wednesday. “This is going to be a long, hard journey, and we’re on the way.”

Gandhi and Kaveh Shojania, M.D., director of the University of Toronto's Centre for Quality Improvement & Patient Safety, editor in chief of BMJ Quality & Safety and co-chair of the expert panel responsible for creating the NPSF's Free from Harm: Accelerating Patient Safety Fifteen Years After to Err Is Human (pictured at right), took a closer look at that journey.

In a largely Q&A-focused talk, Gandhi suggested culture and leadership as a place to start.

Shojania, pointed to pediatrics and its success in measuring patient safety and collaboration efforts to improve safety as a good example of how hospitals can overcome difficulties in tackling the problem.

A blanket approach to improving patient safety is likely not the best solution, and leadership should first look within its own walls before deciding how to address the issue, Shojania said.

“In health care, we often confuse strategy with goal setting,” said Shojania. “It’s fine to set goals, but [safety leaders] need to diagnose the problem and develop a coherent strategy to address that problem, and I think no one institution has the same immediate issues.”

Shojania pointed to eight recommendations to improve safety in your health system:

  1. Ensure that leaders establish and sustain a safety culture.
  2. Create centralized and coordinated oversight of patient safety.
  3. Create a common set of safety metrics that reflect meaningful outcomes.
  4. Increase funding for research in patient safety and implementation science.
  5. Address safety across the entire care continuum.
  6. Support the health care workforce.
  7. Partner with patients and families for the safest care.
  8. Ensure that technology is safe and optimized to improve patient safety.

Photo credit: David Aleman