World Patient Safety Day

December 9, 2017

Each year on 9 December, the World Health Organisation aims to create awareness for patient safety in an effort to minimise risk and increase the quality of care and support offered to patients globally.

Research suggests that one in ten patients are affected by healthcare errors. As such, patient safety remains a public health concern, especially for the millions of individuals who will receive medical treatment or face hospitalisation each day. The need for increased awareness, security and quality care is therefore essential.

The onus is on us to take responsibility for our own care and to equip ourselves in order to understand our own diagnoses, medical treatments and related medications and interventions. The aim is to strive for harm-free care and to avoid unwanted medical mishaps and mistakes which are commonplace.

The pertinent issues

A common patient safety issue includes diagnostic errors such as a missed or delayed diagnosis. This can often be harmful to the patient as they remain without adequate diagnosis that could result in a worsening condition.

Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) can also take place, which refer to the infections that patients may contract while receiving care in hospital. HAIs can lead to added complications or even the death of the patient.

Although medical staff are trained to help promote safe practise and care, accidents and mishaps often occur. It is therefore important to understand common HAIs and guard yourself against these. Common types include pneumonia, surgical site infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections – most of which is preventable.

Other pertinent safety issues often occur as a result of miscommunication, medical errors and incorrect patient treatment. World Patient Safety Day therefore aims to provide public education while emphasizing awareness on unsafe healthcare.

As the public, we are encouraged to learn, observe and understand our own healthcare processes and global standards of care.

Communication is key

Many ill and vulnerable individuals rely solely on the information received by their team of medical professionals. As a patient, however, it is important to feel empowered regarding your treatment and care. Communication is therefore critical to help you understand your doctor’s report and treatment.

Always talk to your medical team about your concerns and questions to avoid confusion and a lack of adequate self-care. If in doubt, bring a family member with you to the consultation to help you further understand your doctor’s instructions.

Ensure that you understand how your medication is to be used and the dosages needed. Read the labels and acquaint yourself with any side-effects. Be prudent and talk to your doctors about the various ways you can stay safe while being treated or hospitalised.

If in doubt, do not be afraid to seek out a second opinion to confirm your diagnosis and potential treatment.

Find out about the pros and cons of any procedures or prescriptions and always err on the side of caution by contacting your medical team should you feel uneasy or ill-equipped to understand your medical situation.

Take precautions

Many HAIs are preventable by implementing basic standards of hygiene. While in hospital, ensure that the nursing staff are continually checking your medication, treatment and condition. If you have a catheter, be sure that it is kept clean, secured and below the level of your bladder and off the floor at all times.

You can also avoid the unwanted spread of germs by remaining vigilant about your care and taking the necessary hygiene precautions needed to ensure safe treatment.

Ensure that your doctors use clean and sterilised equipment when treating you and insist that they sanitize their hands or wear gloves to avoid the spread of illness.

If you are ill, your immune system may already be compromised, and as such, you should do everything in your power to avoid further infection. Remember to wash or sanitize your hands regularly. Ensure that everyone around you (doctors and visitors) also washes their hands before engaging with you. This simple act will already help minimise the spread of infections and germs.

Be alert and take the necessary precautions to prevent unsafe treatment and regain control of your wellbeing.