Working in healthcare is an incredibly rewarding experience. You get to help people in their time of need and make a difference in their lives. However, it’s also a challenging field, and one of the biggest challenges is patient safety. Patient safety is a top priority for healthcare organizations worldwide. Despite the efforts of many hospitals and clinicians, preventable errors and adverse events continue to occur.
Adverse events in healthcare are unfortunately all too common, and they can have serious consequences for patients, families, and healthcare professionals. That’s why it is so important to continuously strive for improved patient safety in healthcare. The goal of quality improvement is to improve patient quality of care and safety. This can be done by reducing waste, errors, and variation in the healthcare system. Improving patient safety is a top priority for the healthcare industry, and quality improvement is the key to achieving this.
The need for quality healthcare improvement in the U.S. has been drawn to attention by heightened awareness of medical errors, escalating healthcare costs, and a high number of insured Americans. To guide future healthcare quality improvements, care redesign initiatives are being evaluated. There are also many efforts underway around care coordination, patient outcomes, safety, cost-cutting, and efficiency.
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Importance of quality improvement in healthcare
There are innumerable advances in medical science with the evolution of technology. However, when it comes to ensuring patient safety, addressing patient needs, quality improvement, and efficiency of the system, the healthcare system is currently performing below acceptable levels.
Quality improvement is a system-wide endeavor that identifies and meets the definition of quality: “The degree to which a thing conforms to a standard or specification.” Quality improvement is the process set in place to improve healthcare. It considers patient safety, healthcare, and cost-effectiveness while seeking short-term, long-term, and sustainable solutions.
The purpose of quality improvement is to enhance safety, efficiency, and effectiveness. It promotes evidence-based practice and the use of clinical guidelines in the healthcare field. For instance, intuitive and simple software for electronic medical records gives user-centric design to hospitals and doctors’ offices. This improves reliability and efficiency in the healthcare process, which helps healthcare professionals devote more time to providing satisfactory healthcare services.
Why is quality improvement essential to the healthcare industry?
Improving healthcare quality is essential while also addressing the needs of the patient, the community, and the healthcare system. It will not only improve patient outcomes and reduce overall costs but also lead to remarkable cost savings in treatment. Inaccurate or unclear records make it difficult for caregivers to deliver quality patient care.
Improvement of quality healthcare follows a systematic approach that assesses, monitors, and improves quality standards of healthcare. The chain of activities involved is cyclic, and in order to achieve a higher level of performance, the cycle needs continuous improvement. This will help remove healthcare facilities from inefficient traditional concepts by using technology to enhance efficient performance and create better results.
Quality improvement helps hospitals, nursing schools, and other medical institutions to reduce medical complications and errors. These medical facilities can get feedback from external quality assessment agencies, which helps them improve their performance by identifying strengths and weaknesses they can improve upon. This feedback also makes patients aware of their potential risks from specific procedures/treatments, which help them make better decisions about their healthcare.
Principles of quality improvement in the healthcare system
In order to achieve success and improve quality, you need to choose an appropriate program model that will suit your organization’s needs, culture, and policies. It is important to select the right program model based on patient needs.
Quality improvement is a systematic approach toward achieving excellence in the healthcare system. It consists of an array of frameworks that delineate the general process. In addition to service delivery, level of patient efficiency, satisfaction, and outcome, a successful quality improvement program incorporates outlined principles to achieve a successful organizational healthcare system and an enhanced level of performance. There are several key principles that can be considered for quality improvement by healthcare systems:
Serving the needs of patients is important, and quality improvement involves care coordination. A combination of strategies that improve outcomes, enhance patient safety, and improve quality should be followed to bring about a successful health system. Care coordination is essential for combining hospital- and community-based services to determine a holistic care plan. Quality improvement in healthcare helps improve coordination and patient satisfaction while enhancing the experience of healthcare for patients.
. Patient-centered approach
A patient-centered approach aims to deliver effective medical treatment and high-quality healthcare. Successful healthcare systems place great importance on patients, as every decision made is based on the patient’s health condition. Patient information is kept confidential, ensuring that only data that is essential for delivering quality care is gathered. A holistic approach to care allows the physician to make decisions according to the best interest of the patient instead of the physician’s convenience. Better care will translate into improved patient satisfaction, which translates into improved healthcare quality and outcomes.
In an attempt to achieve the best outcome for patients, the healthcare system should utilize automated decision support systems (ADS). These systems can help healthcare providers communicate with patients and caregivers, which allows them to pinpoint when a patient needs immediate attention. An AD also narrows down the diagnostic process and provides data that is essential for better care.
With the advancement of technology in every field, the healthcare industry has been able to utilize advanced technologies for better outcomes for patients. Advanced technologies such as electronic medical records (EMRs) help provide better quality healthcare and ensure that all the necessary information is available for proper care planning. It promotes patient safety by collecting all required information within the healthcare system, which keeps patient records updated, provides accurate clinical results, and offers greater access to clinical data.
. Functioning through processes and systems
Quality is determined and improved by the practices followed at every level in the healthcare system. Quality improvement is essential to promote the proper use of resources and eliminate waste in healthcare. It helps medical professionals understand their behaviors and allows them to realize the importance of quality management systems in healthcare.
Quality improvement follows a cyclical approach that has four different stages: initiation, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Quality improvement in healthcare should be implemented at every level of the healthcare system. Medical staff needs to work together to have a better quality result.
Strategies for patient safety quality improvement
Patient safety is critical to ensuring proper healthcare outcomes, preventing patient harm, and minimizing redundant costs for healthcare providers. Without patient safety, healthcare outcomes become detrimental due to hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, lack of proper communication, mix-ups, and more. According to WHO, one out of ten patients gets harmed during medical care. But by incorporating patients as part of the care team, healthcare professionals can improve patient safety through patient-centered care strategies.
As a healthcare worker, you have a role to play in ensuring your patients’ safety. Here is what you can do to enhance patient safety:
. Verify medical procedures
One of the best ways to improve patient safety is by implementing a medical procedure verification process. Medical procedures should be verified for accuracy before being performed. This can help prevent medical errors and unnecessary risks that are incurred due to inaccurate information. Any medical procedure that patients undergo should be medically documented. This will ensure that all relevant information is collected before the procedure begins. It will also help medical professionals, who cannot work independently in order to prevent the occurrence of medical errors, to be better informed and accountable while they provide better care to patients.
. Promote a team atmosphere
Patient safety depends on a team mentality. A team is an essential part of the healthcare system and is viewed as part of the care delivery process. Medical professionals should work together to communicate better and provide a more streamlined approach to healthcare. Open communication among team members is essential for keeping patients healthy and safe. Communication helps the healthcare team to develop better methods for patient safety through their treatment plans, assessments, techniques, and more.
A hospital’s attitude and culture toward preventing errors can be improved by emphasizing teamwork and being honest with staff about their role in patient safety. By promoting interaction and cooperation among colleagues and other departments, healthcare workers can improve patient safety by building a team approach in the hospital.
. Let patients access EHR data
When patients are able to access their EHR and clinician notes, it gives them a sense of knowing what is happening to them. It ensures that patients are engaged in the care process and that they are aware of the plan for treatment and recovery. These steps will improve communication between the healthcare team and patients and will reinforce the message that they are important members of their care teams. This can help prevent medical record misinformation. For example, when they look at their EHR data, patients can spot prescription errors or inaccuracies in medication history.
. Communicate progress
Proper communication among healthcare providers can help prevent medical errors. A high level of communication between the team members and patients can improve patient safety by ensuring that the right care is being provided to the appropriate patients. To effectively improve patient safety, it is important to have a system that can measure and share data between healthcare workers. Each department should have an understanding of its purpose and its role in ensuring patient safety. Healthcare workers should also give patients clinical updates about their condition and treatment. This keeps them informed about the recovery process, which will decrease their anxiety and improve their chances of being well.
. Establish an executable plan
Every medical emergency has its own procedure that must be followed. It is very important to have an executable procedure in place to ensure patient safety. Procedures and protocols must be clearly defined before they are implemented. Each procedure and protocol should be validated – which involves a series of checks – and audited by the patients or by their families before being implemented. This process also ensures that health professionals do not waste time preparing for procedures that most likely will not be needed.
. Collaborate with other organizations
Collaborating with other nursing organizations, healthcare organizations, and hospitals can help improve patient safety. Hospitals and healthcare workers have to work together and be transparent to ensure that patients are getting the right care. This will help the healthcare team identify where improvement is needed . Collaboration with other organizations can also lead to sharing of best practices, which will increase the quality of care. When healthcare workers work as a team to improve patient safety, they are able to serve patients better and provide more effective outcomes.
. Protect the hospital environment
It is important to make sure that the hospital environment is comfortable and offers a secure environment for all healthcare workers and patients. Physical conditions such as noise, lighting, and temperature should be set appropriately. Patients’ safety is also improved by minimizing the use of restraints and making sure that they are appropriate for patients who need them. In addition to these measures, having a clean environment helps reduce infections and harmful diseases among patients when they are in hospitals.
. Establish appointment scheduling procedure
Standard operating procedures, clinical policies, and checklists should be in place to protect patients from mistakes by healthcare personnel or other team members in the hospital. Appointment scheduling impacts the success of safety interventions. For appointments that are urgent and time-sensitive, set up appointment cancellations and no-shows as an alert. Implementing appointment reminders may also help improve patient safety when it comes to arriving at appointments on time.
To improve patient safety, it is important to have a system that allows for proper communication between healthcare workers. Health professionals must make sure that staff schedules are simple and clear, as well as realistic and timely. In addition, staff must communicate with patients regarding important appointments, testing needs, and other needs of the day.
. Provide continuous safety training
Improving patient safety through effective education can greatly influence a healthcare organization’s culture toward error prevention and quality improvement practices. Healthcare workers must have access to effective training programs that are customized for each person’s role in providing care to patients.
Continuous education is the foundation of patient safety. Continuous improvement is the foundation of continuous education. It helps keep healthcare workers updated on new developments in patient safety and provides quality care to patients. Areas of education may include medication administration, infection control, pain management, patient engagement, the importance of teamwork, and communication skills.
. Familiarize with the PDSA cycle
The PDSA cycle is a quality improvement tool that can be used to test a change before implementing it on a larger scale. It can be used to improve quality and resolve problems in any organization and consists of four steps: plan, do, study, and act.
The first step, plan, is about identifying the problem and developing a plan to address it. The second step, do, is about implementing the plan. The third step, study, is about collecting data to assess whether the plan is working. The fourth and final step, act, is about making improvements based on what was learned in the previous steps.
People within the healthcare industry have the ability to figure out what works and what does not work and then adapt those changes into their system. The process involves gathering data from the patient, reviewing it, analyzing it, improving upon it, and conducting further tests based on results of improvement.
The IHI recommends the use of the PDSA Model for Improvement as a framework to guide improvement efforts. While this cycle is adapted for action-oriented learning, it typically mimics the steps of the scientific method.
Advanced nursing degrees improve patient safety
Improving patient safety is a continuous process; however, the most important aspect of improving the quality of patient care is to prevent medical errors. It is important for healthcare providers to be well-trained to prevent mistakes in providing proper treatment for patients. Patient safety is a top priority and requires a culture of collaboration across the healthcare team to ensure that healthcare workers are knowledgeable of the latest developments in care and how they can improve patient safety.
With an advanced degree in nursing, you will be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a better and more effective healthcare professional. As the demand for nurses increases, the need to promote patient safety through clinical practice, education, research, and advocacy is crucial to improving healthcare quality.