Openness is key to patient safety

ABU DHABI — Lack of openness in communication and the sense of accountability are factors affecting patient safety culture at health organisations, said experts at the fourth annual Abu Dhabi Medical Congress on Sunday.

By Olivia Olarte

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Published: Tue 19 Oct 2010, 9:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:30 PM

“Communication openness has always been on the list of failures in healthcare organisations,” said Dr Shannon Phillips, Patient Safety Officer at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US.

During her Patient Safety lecture on ‘Walking the talk – what hospitals or health systems can do to measure and activate safety culture’, Dr Phillips stressed the importance of encouraging open communication among the healthcare practitioners and the “non-punitive” reaction from the management.

She noted that the first response a hospital should give when someone reports an error is to thank the person who reported the error.

This will encourage the healthcare practitioner to report errors committed and the hospitals will be able to identify the areas that needs improvement.

“Teamwork is probably one of the most important elements of patient safety. It’s good to feel that you work as a team and not by yourself,” said Dr Phillips.

However, working as a team sometimes poses a problem of accountability “due to the distribution of responsibility,” pointed out Dr Paul Van Ostenberg, senior executive director at the Job Commission International in the US.

“Patient safety is everyone’s responsibility. We are not in the business of doing harm,” said Dr Phillips, emphasising the importance of changing culture in the transformation of an organisation.

She suggested that hospitals should “measure their culture” and ask patients about their experience and how they perceive their level of safety under the healthcare facilities’ care.

“Measuring culture is really measuring the perception of the people about the organisation - the attitudes, beliefs, practice and actions of your organisation. Measuring this is critical and you can’t measure this yourself. There are several tools to measure that perception for you,” she said.

Dr Phillips recommended that hospitals conduct a patient safety survey comprising a multidisciplinary project team and engaging the senior leadership.

“You have to be transparent with the data and implement action plans, and hold yourself accountable to making a difference,” she stated.

“We can take action that reduces patient safety incidence,” agreed Dr van Ostenberg.

This year’s conferences at the ADMC address new and emerging healthcare dilemmas in the region in areas of patient safety, emergency, primary healthcare and rehabilitation.

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