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New national action plan aims to reduce medical errors, improve patient safety

by Valerie Dimond, Contributing Reporter | September 16, 2020
Business Affairs Risk Management
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)-convened National Steering Committee for Patient Safety (NSC) has released a new National Action Plan to help healthcare systems reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.

The new plan, Safer Together: A National Action Plan to Advance Patient Safety, was developed using evidence-based practices, effective interventions, case examples, and newer innovations. The work began in 2018 with more than two dozen entities from federal agencies, safety experts and patient/family advocates involved.

“Over the past 20 years, the field has amassed a tremendous body of knowledge to improve healthcare safety,” said NSC co-chair Jeffrey Brady, who directs the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in a news release. “What’s been missing is the use of this knowledge for more coordinated action. That’s what we want to rectify.”

In a survey conducted in February 2020 by Sage Growth Partners, C-suite executives, physicians, nurses, infection preventionists, pharmacists, and others were asked about their top patient safety challenges, where the most safety improvements are occurring, if technology is enhancing patient safety, and which patient safety improvement approaches are most successful. Nearly one quarter of respondents said they were unhappy with their organization's safety performance and more than a quarter said they are less confident about hospital safety than the typical consumer.

And according to ECRI’s Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns 2020 report, diagnostic errors are the top patient safety concern for the third year in a row. Diagnostic errors are characterized as missed and delayed diagnoses and are commonly caused by communication failures of information. This prevents the right person from initiating the right action at the right time of care, and can lead to patients suffering, adverse outcomes, and death. Previous versions from 2018 and 2019 also ranked diagnostic errors as the top concern for patient safety.

The new National Action Plan offers core principles and recommendations that IHI says are also extremely relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and is centered on four foundational areas that have a widespread impact on safety across the continuum of care:
• Culture, Leadership, and Governance: The imperative for leaders, governance bodies, and policymakers to demonstrate and foster deeply held professional commitments to safety as a core value and promote the development of cultures of safety.

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