National Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 11-17

This week is National Patient Safety Awareness week. It is a good time to reflect on patient safety in the United States. We can all work together to improve awarenss of the need for improved patient safety.

There are many estimates about how many people are harmed through preventable medical error each year. Estimates suggest that about 100,000 to 440,000 people die per year from preventable medical error each year. Many more sustain harm that was significant but not fatal.

One life destroyed by medical error is one too many. But these numbers suggest that annually hundreds of thousands of people have their lives destroyed by preventable medical error. These numbers represent real lives of real people. We are all patients. We are all at risk for suffering caused by healthcare. We must take action to save ourselves and those we love from harm sustained through healthcare.

In my home state, we have the means to examine adverse events and educate for prevention through the Nebraska Coalition fo Patient Safety (NCPS). NCPS collects voluntary reports of suspected medical error from medical facilities. It aggregates the data to develop feedback, training and education about causes of medical error and shares the learning with member facilities. Members receive feedback on events, root cause analysis support, information and evidence-based best practices, and patient safety culture development.

However, when the NCPS was established in 2005, a consistent vehicle for funding was not established. The Coalition depends upon voluntary membership dues; this limited and uncertain budget hampers NCPS reach and effectiveness.

Last month, I jumped at an opportunity to increase patient safety in Nebraska by working on legislation to create consistent funding for NCPS. A bill to provide additional fees to some licensed healthcare providers to create the Patient Safety Cash Fund was introduced as LB1127. If passed, $10 will be collected per year from licensed physicians, nurses, pharmacists, occupational and physical therapists to create the Patient Safety Cash Fund. This fund would go directly to the Nebraska Coalition for Patient Safety.

If LB 1127 is enacted, the Coalition will:

  • expand their work from hospitals only to the continuum of care;

  • engage all healthcare stakeholders, regardless of their position on the current bill, to conduct a patient safety needs assessment, develop a strategy to address cross-cutting priority needs, and then evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts;

  • hire additional staff with knowledge and skills in clinical care, informatics, human factors, and organizational culture to receive the increased volume of reports and aggregate and analyze them (while reserving funds for office space, computers, software, and web support);

  • implement a communication plan to provide feedback to healthcare professionals and the public using aggregate data to describe the patient safety hazards we identify and the resources needed to address them; and

  • expand efforts to ensure all healthcare professionals have the language and tools needed to advocate for patients.

In summary, LB 1127 has the power to engage all healthcare professionals in Nebraska in our most important priority…keeping patients safe while receiving care that is intended to help them.

I’m pleased to report that the Health and Human Services Committee held an executive session and voted to advance patient safety bill LB 1127 to General File! We will continue to work with other committed organizations like the Nebraska Medical Association and the Nebraska Hospital Association to pass the bill and increase patient safety!

For more from Evelyn McKnight, visit HonoReform

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