Frequently Asked Questions
About Patient Safety
Doron Schneider, M.D., is Abington Memorial Hospital's Chief Safety and Quality Officer. Here Dr. Schneider responds to some frequently asked questions about patient safety:
Q: What can I do about my own patient safety?
Dr. Schneider: At Abington, we definitely consider patient safety a team effort. Along with our doctors, nurses and other staff, some of the most important members of that team are our patients and their families. That means you should take an active role in your health care.
Since medications are one of the major sources of medical errors, keep an updated medication wallet card with you so you can tell any medical professional you encounter, whether here at the hospital or in your doctors' offices, what medications you are taking. If you are admitted, take the time to read our patient safety brochure, which is loaded with good suggestions to help make your stay a safe one. Among them: Don't feel shy about checking to see if your health caregivers have washed their hands or used an alcohol hand rinse prior to treating you. When speaking with doctors, take notes or have a family member or friend do so to make sure you understand your care and medications - and what you yourself are supposed to do. In addition, for more information, remember to view the Patient Safety video on the hospital patient education television channel.
Q: What should I do if I have a suggestion to improve patient safety at the hospital?
Dr. Schneider: If you think something's wrong or unusual speak up immediately to your nurses, doctors and hospital staff. For less pressing concerns, drop a suggestion in one of the many suggestion boxes placed throughout the hospital, or contact our Center for Patient Safety and Health Care Quality by dialing 215-481-4396.
We want to hear your safety concerns directly so that we can make improvements. However, you have the right to contact the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (1-630-792-5636 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or the Pennsylvania Department of Health (1-800-254-5164) to voice your concerns.
Q: What is the Institute for Healthcare Improvement? Why are IHI's patient safety initiatives important to me?
Dr. Schneider: The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) is a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, MA, that is dedicated to improving health care throughout the world. It's responsible for two campaigns you may have heard about. The first, the 100,000 Lives Campaign, in just 18 months saved an estimated 122,000 lives at 3,100 U.S. hospitals. These hospitals, including Abington, were able to achieve those goals partly by following one or more of the six safety interventions suggested by IHI. Regrettably, besides suffering avoidable deaths, patients in U.S. hospitals also are harmed as the result of such problems as hospital-acquired infections, adverse drug events and pressure sores. IHI's Protecting 5 Million Lives from Harm campaign adds another six interventions that hospitals can follow to reduce the chances of harm to our patients.
Abington is one of the few hospitals that are voluntarily pursuing all 12 IHI interventions. For our patients, these are all important measures that will continue to make Abington a safer hospital. From responding to heart attacks to fighting infections and preventing adverse drug effects, these are evidence- and scientifically based measures.
Q: In terms of patient safety, what is Abington doing that distinguishes it from other hospitals?
Dr. Schneider: In terms of manpower/staff hours and the financial resources we are investing in the latest technology, Abington's commitment to patient safety is extraordinary. We established our Center for Patient Safety and Health Care Quality, which is coordinating the hospital's widespread safety initiatives - including our voluntary commitment to all 12 of the IHI's recommended safety interventions. Also, most hospitals have no patient safety officers, or only one. But Abington now has nine doctors serving as patient safety officers in key areas throughout the hospital. They have completed the IHI's premiere national program for patient safety officers.
In addition, we recognized that a failure to communicate is the cause of most errors. To that end we are providing team training for all of our nurses and doctors to minimize the likelihood of communication failure.
Q: What sort of technology is the hospital using to create a safer environment for patients?
Dr. Schneider: We're one of the few U.S. hospitals using computerized physician order entry. That reduces the possibility of a doctor's orders being misunderstood, for instance, due to illegible handwriting. We are also currently installing a computer-based medical records system in both the hospital and within Abington Health Physicians. In addition we have invested heavily in digital radiology systems that allow any doctor to view x-rays from anywhere on campus - as well as home when on call. Our IV pumps use'smart pump' technology to ensure that nurses dispense intravenous medication with complete accuracy. Our daVinci robotic surgery program is well underway and has already assisted our surgeons in safely performing hundreds of procedures. We are extremely aggressive in investing in tomorrows technology to provide our patients the safest care today.
And from our pharmacy to our lab, we're using state-of-the art technology and information systems to maximize care and enhance safety.
Q: What is the hospital doing about hospital-acquired infections?
Dr. Schneider: Because we recognize the importance of reducing these infections that people, unfortunately, sometimes pick up while in the hospital, we're adding additional staff, including doctors and nurses, to our Epidemiology (infection control) Department. With separate projects, we are voluntarily tackling all four infections identified by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement: Central line, surgical site and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia. In addition we are developing protocols to minimize the number of days that patients have urinary catheters in order to minimize infection risk. We also are in the process of developing an electronic epidemiology surveillance tracking system to look for infection trends so we can respond to them in the quickest and most accurate way possible. Most importantly we are transforming our culture to expect all staff to comply with handwashing and use of appropriate infection control procedures such as isolation of patients with known infections. Patients are actively encouraged to ask staff if they have cleansed their hands.