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Patient Safety Awareness Week Tips, Tools

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Joint Commission is marking National Patient Safety Awareness Week from March 9-14 by helping patients and their families become more involved and informed in their health care through its award-winning Speak Up education campaign. As the accreditor of more than 16,000 health care organizations in the U.S., The Joint Commission advocates for safe, high quality care.

“Patient safety is a critical component of quality care, and is one of the most challenging issues in health care today” says Mark R. Chassin, M.D., M.P.P., M.P.H., president, The Joint Commission. “The Joint Commission is actively working with health care organizations to build higher levels of safety into the health care system. Patients can be effective partners in this improvement by being engaged in and informed about their care.” Click here for a podcast with Dr. Chassin.

Speak Up brochures are available on preventing infections, preventing medication mistakes, avoiding wrong site surgery, recovering after leaving the hospital, understanding medical tests, understanding what your caregiver says, preparing to become a living organ donor, and preventing errors in care. The brochures can be found at www.jointcommission.org/PatientSafety/SpeakUp/. All of the Speak Up brochures are available in an easy-to-read format and are also available in Spanish.

The Speak Up campaign urges patients to:

* Speak up if you have questions or concerns. If you still don't understand, ask again. It's your body and you have a right to know.

* Pay attention to the care you get. Always make sure you're getting the right treatments and medications by the right health care professionals. Don't assume anything.

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* Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you get, and your treatment plan.

* Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate (advisor or supporter).

* Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medicine errors are the most common health care mistakes.

* Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of health care organization that has been carefully checked out. For example, The Joint Commission visits hospitals to see if they are meeting The Joint Commission’s quality standards.

* Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.

The Joint Commission has been actively involved in patient safety for more than 50 years. At its core, accreditation is a risk reduction activity; compliance with Joint Commission standards is intended to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes. More than 75 percent of Joint Commission standards relate to patient safety. These national standards give organizations the framework to prevent health care-associated infections, safely manage medications, involve patients and their families in all care decisions, create a safe physical environment for care and provide competent caregivers.

Accredited organizations also must comply with the Universal Protocol and National Patient Safety Goals that establish safe practices for important aspects of the care process for common risks like effective communication, hand hygiene, accurate patient identification and medication safety, among others. In addition, The Joint Commission regularly issues national Alerts to warn health care organizations and professionals about safety issues. Past issues have addressed hospital infections, medication errors, blood transfusion errors and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) accidents.

National Patient Safety Awareness Week is a national observance sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation as an education and awareness campaign to improve patient safety at the local level.