A New Study Sheds Light on Monitoring Patient Safety
Patient safety is critical in all healthcare facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes. However, very few studies shed any light on the level of patient safety in primary care facilities, which is just as important to medical outcomes. A new study in the United Kingdom sheds a little light on the lack of monitoring that may be occurring around the world.
The Participants and the Study
A group of researchers focused on 21 primary care workers in the North West London area. Some were practice managers, some were general practitioners, and others were non-clinical staff. The goal was to observe the ways in which individuals in these settings monitor patients for safety. The results were shocking, to say the least, and they may indicate problems in other facilities worldwide.
Problem #1 – What Constitutes a Patient Safety Issue?
The first thing that became evident during the study was the sheer lack of understanding which factors to look for and what might actually constitute a patient safety issue. This alone often leads to errors at some point in the healthcare process that could harm patients either directly or indirectly. Many of the 21 participants admitted that they did not understand what they should monitor or report, or even to whom they needed to report their findings or how they should record their concerns.
Problem #2 – Complicated and Meaningless Data
Another concern among the participants was the sheer amount of data in front of them at all times. These individuals admit that there is no lack of information about individual patients and their treatments, but the problem lies in a meaningful analysis of that information. Thus, although records do exist, very few of the participants know what to do with it, or even how to apply it to their cases in a meaningful manner.
Problem #3 – Massive Workloads
Along those same lines, when asked why some issues went unreported, participants replied that their workloads were simply too strenuous to allow them much time to consider patient safety issues that were not obvious. Many of the participants found themselves questioning whether certain portions of information were even relevant to general practice. Finally, participants also said that it was often unclear who was responsible for acting on potential patient safety issues – general practitioners or another member of the healthcare team.
Problem #4 – Reporting Between Departments
The final major problem the study found has to do with communication between various healthcare departments. For example, when doctors discharge a patient from the hospital, the GP receives a letter with information vital to the treatment of that patient. Often, these letters contain incomplete information, or inaccurate information, which makes it impossible to catch red flags and take the proper course of action.
Although this was a small-scale study of only 21 individuals in the healthcare system, it goes to show that many facilities would do well to impose clearer guidelines, policies, and procedures for recording, reporting, analyzing, and handling patient information. Once this is set in stone, patient safety will improve.