Six Countries Take Step Towards Preventing Patient Safety Problems

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Patient Safety

A group of six countries, including two Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Member States, took a bold step today in Washington, D.C., to vigorously develop and implement standardized protocols related to patient safety solutions over the next five years.

The solutions for patient safety seek to save lives by improving healthcare security and preventing avoidable catastrophic or disabling events in hospitals and other health facilities due to errors, mistakes and/or adverse events related to medication administration, wrong or mistaken medical and surgical procedures and lack of proper hand hygiene practices, among others.

The signing was part of the Commonwealth Fund's 2007 International Symposium on Health Care Policy, which brings together Ministers of Health of the Commonwealth Countries to debate on healthcare policy and practice.

By signing the unprecedented collaborative action towards the implementation of five concrete, evidence-based and cost effective patient safety protocols, Health Ministers and/or their representatives from Canada and the United States, along with those from Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, formally recognized today in Washington, D.C., the critical and urgent need to act in cooperation and unison to solve and prevent major but avoidable patient safety problems.

The ceremony was attended by several PAHO leaders and experts, including Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director; Dr. Jonas Gonseth, Associate Expert in Quality of Healthcare Services; Dr. Homero Vasquez, a consultant on Quality of Healthcare Services; and Mr. Babak Mohit, also a PAHO consultant on Quality of Healthcare Services.

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Other major attendees were Sir Liam Donaldson, Chairman of the World Alliance for Patient Safety - World Health Organization; Dr. Dennis O'Leary, President of the Joint Commission; Dr. Karen Davis, President of the Commonwealth Fund; and Robin Osborn, Vice President and Director, International Program in Health Policy and Practice, also from the Commonwealth Fund, among many others.

At the end of the event, Dr. Etienne thanked all parties for the work done by the Joint Commission and by the Commonwealth Fund on behalf of patient safety. In referring to the High 5s, Dr. Etienne indicated that "we sincerely hope, and expect, that it will become a vehicle for coordinating the energy and enthusiasm for tackling unsafe care."

It is estimated that those patient safety problems cause harm to at least one out of ten patients in industrialized countries while receiving health care. In developing countries, the probability of patients being harmed in hospitals is higher than in industrialized nations. The risk of healthcare-associated infection in some developing countries is as much as 20 times higher than in developed countries.

"The interest and commitment being shown by the six countries to implement these solutions is inspiring," Sir Liam Donaldson said. The Chief Medical Officer of England and Chair of the World Alliance for Patient Safety - World Health Organization (WHO) - underscored that "over the years to come, risks to patients will be reduced, lives will be saved and many lessons will be learned as a result of the High 5s action being initiated in Washington, D. C., today."

The High 5s Project has developed five standard operating protocols to address five significant patient safety problems, he said. "These protocols will be used in hospitals in the six partner countries over the next five years. And their impact will be monitored."

The selected five solution areas that the six countries agreed to develop and implement within the framework of the High 5s initiative over five years are:

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