Healthy World, Healthy Nation, Healthy You

Quality and Safety

Quality and Safety

Consumer Be Aware and Alert-Your Life May Depend on It

Improving patient safety and quality of care is one of the most urgent issues facing healthcare today. A report that was published by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, entitled To Err is Human found that health care in the United States is not as safe as it should be–and can be. At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented, according to estimates from two major studies. Even using the lower estimate, preventable medical errors in hospitals exceed attributable deaths to such feared threats as motor-vehicle wrecks, breast cancer, and AIDS. There were so many errors committed by the healthcare are industry every day, that it would be equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every day!

This report lays out a comprehensive strategy by which government, health care providers, industry, and consumers can reduce preventable medical errors. Concluding that the know-how already exists to prevent many of these mistakes, the report sets as a minimum goal a 50 percent reduction in errors over the next five years. Unfortunately, even more than a decade later, we have made little progress overall. There are many programs being developed and progress has been made in some setting but the standards overall must improve in order for consumers to get the value they are looking for given the cost of healthcare.

The Institute of Medicine defines healthcare quality as the extent to which health services provided to individuals and patient populations improve desired health outcomes. The care should be based on the strongest clinical evidence and provided in a technically and culturally competent manner with good communication and shared decision making.

Total quality is best defined as an attitude, an orientation that permeates an entire organization, and the way in which that organization performs its internal and external business.

People who work in organizations dedicated to the concept of total quality constantly strive for excellence and continuous quality improvement in all that they do.

Retrieved from: Pelletier & Beaudin, PhD, Q Solutions: Essential Resources for the Healthcare Quality Professional, Second Edition, (Glenview, IL: National Association for Healthcare Quality, 2008); p.3.:

Medical errors can be defined as the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim. Among the problems that commonly occur during the course of providing health care are adverse drug events and improper transfusions, surgical injuries and wrong-site surgery, suicides, restraint-related injuries or death, falls, burns, pressure ulcers, and mistaken patient identities. High error rates with serious consequences are most likely to occur in intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments. One of the most basic elements of improving care is hand washing among all hospital staff.

Retrieved from: The Institute of Medicine report: To Err is Human:

There are many aspects involved in improving quality and safety in health care settings and yet, one of the most basic elements of improvement is hand washing among all hospital staff. Washing before entering a patients room and then washing again as one leaves the room is a basic expectation of health care staff. The goal is that all staff wash by these standards 100% of the time. Yet, observational information reveals that this occurs about half the time and even less in some settings.

Hospital acquired infections are often related to lack of hand washing among staff.

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