How Patient Safety Software Became a Strategic Imperative

June 25, 2020 RLDatix Marketing

Ever since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its landmark 1999 report, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” there has been a global focus on improving patient safety.

Despite the efforts of an entire industry, however, progress has been slow – indeed, the situation may be getting worse.

While the IOM report estimated that as many as 98,000 U.S. patients die annually from medical errors, a 2016 study published in the BMJ shows that medical errors may now be the third-leading cause of death in the United States – claiming 251,000 lives every year. If the study’s findings are correct, then only heart disease and cancer kill more people each year than medical errors.

But Wait, There’s More

  • In March 2017, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority reported that hundreds of medication errors submitted to this agency over a six-month period in 2016 were linked to healthcare EHR technology, sending ripples through quality and patient safety circles nationwide.
  • In the latter half of 2018, five U.S. hospitals found themselves in the white-hot media spotlight after one or more medical errors occurred at their institutions. The list includes Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, and the prestigious Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts. Kent Hospital entered into a consent agreement with the state health department to spend at least $1.7 million on a 100-day “turnaround plan” to improve patient safety. At Boston Children’s, three patients suffered from medication errors, including one patient who waited 14 hours for an antibiotic and later died after developing sepsis.
  • In February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released this year’s list of hospitals being penalized – to the tune of 1% of Medicare payments – for patient safety penalties. Eight hundred hospitals will see their Medicare payments cut – up from 751 hospitals the year before. To make matters worse, 110 hospitals are being punished for the fifth-straight time, including Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, the nation’s third-largest hospital with 1,756 beds and $1.2 billion in revenue.

How Can This Be?

How can healthcare organisations, despite all their efforts to improve patient safety, be sliding in the wrong direction? The answer is simple. Too often, healthcare organisations create a rudimentary incident reporting system that might be effective at capturing medical errors and near misses, but does nothing to connect all the data contained within those reports to identify trends and opportunities for improvement.

To borrow from the needle-in-a-haystack analogy, with a manual, paper system, each incident is nothing more than a single needle in a pile of incident reports, with no way to find commonality and root causes between multiple events.

It has only been in recent years that healthcare executives have begun to understand the magnitude of the paper incident reporting problem. They now understand that it is no longer good enough to boast about the number of incident reports filed; healthcare organisations must be able to mine that data to determine root causes, identify potential risks, and predict when and where future events might occur.

Of course, without robust patient safety software, achieving those outcomes is impossible, which is why the need for such a software application has quickly become a strategic imperative for many healthcare organisations.

How We’re Solving This Problem

Datix has been improving incident reporting in hospitals worldwide for years, designing and deploying technology that protects patients from preventable patient harm through active surveillance that not only promotes a safety culture, but also encourages self-reporting of errors and near misses. Our online incident reporting form – just one cog on the RLDatix patient safety toolkit – was designed in real-world environments in consultation with our users to ensure it is not only simple to use, but also suitable for both clinical and non-clinical incident reporting. The user interface can be personalised to the needs and workflows of the organisation, and incidents can be easily submitted by anyone in the organisation with access to a computer.

But that’s not what makes our incident reporting functionality so powerful.

RLDatix Incidents module combines with the Safety Alerts module to provide teams with daily huddle topics that include local incidents and near misses, enterprise level alerts, and lessons learned to ensure the spread of improvements and awareness.

In addition, by automatically and immediately routing event reports according to categories, areas involved, and risks identified, triage and investigation time are improved, which allows safety professionals to shift their efforts from chasing investigative tasks to improving safety with team leaders. When teams see timely and consistent responses to the events they report, safety culture improves, which helps avoid future, potential adverse events.

Our ability to promote a patient safety culture through technology is just one reason why RLDatix is the global leader in patient safety and risk management technology. We maintain an intense focus on reducing preventable patient harm. If you want to leverage technology to reduce preventable patient harm – or improve any aspect of your patient safety program – then we would welcome a conversation. We work only in healthcare, which allows us to provide you with a level of expertise you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s get to work.

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