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Patient Safety Awareness Week

Patient Safety Awareness Week was recognized March 10th through 16th this year to highlight opportunities to raise awareness about preventing medical errors, promoting transparency, and fostering a culture of safety in health care settings. Mentioning patient safety may trigger thoughts of individuals slipping on wet floors and institutions like hospitals safeguarding against unnecessary patient injuries. If you watched television in the late 1980s and early 1990s, you may recall the catchphrase, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” which was part of a 1989 commercial for LifeCall, a medical alarm and protection company. The commercial was designed to appeal to seniors who lived alone and might experience a medical emergency, such as a fall. On the other side of this continuum, perhaps you have recently been to a residence that houses a toddler where safety locks on door handles, drawers, and ovens abound.

Safety within the health care ecosystem reaches far beyond stair railings and safety locks on medicine cabinets. Patient safety entails a culture of vigilance, a willingness to convey concerns like near misses, and strong collaboration across health care practitioners and systems to ensure patients are cared for.

Colorado Access strategically integrates local and national regulatory frameworks to establish a robust foundation for patient safety measures. In addition to adhering to established guidelines, the organization implements proactive measures to monitor patient safety comprehensively. This includes processing quality-of-care concerns and grievances, which are pivotal components of our safety surveillance. Unlike reactive approaches that solely address historical occurrences, health care practices and institutions can prioritize proactive strategies to anticipate and preempt safety issues before they arise.

Policies improve patient safety

Policies are crucial in ensuring patient safety by defining expectations, setting boundaries, establishing inclusion and exclusion criteria, and outlining standard protocols. Policies establish standardized practices for various aspects of health care delivery, including clinical care, reporting incidents, infection control, and patient communication. By ensuring consistency in practices across health care providers and settings, behaviors become standardized, variation is reduced, and consistency emerges, which reduces the likelihood of errors because health care providers can anticipate the steps involved in a particular task or intervention.

Consistent practices help reduce the cognitive load on health care providers. When procedures are standardized, health care professionals can rely on established protocols rather than having to make new decisions for each patient encounter.

Mitigate risk before it’s a safety concern

We reduce the risk of infection by limiting exposure to illness-causing pathogens by wearing a mask and washing hands. Analysis of health trends and disease surveillance can help predict disease spread, allowing for timely implementation of preventive measures, targeted interventions, and resource allocation to mitigate the impact on public health.

Educate patients about safety

Patient education raises awareness about potential safety risks, empowering individuals to proactively recognize and address hazards or concerns. Behavioral health settings can assess risk by administering suicide screening for every incoming behavioral health or substance use client, along with sharing steps to create a safety plan, even if the individual doesn’t present as a danger to themselves or others. At the time of the assessment, making individuals aware of resources available within the community in case they were ever to feel they were a danger to themselves or others not only empowers those individuals with knowledge about options that could support them in a time of crisis, but makes those individuals who received this education stewards of safety precautions and able to share that resource with others should they ever need it.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

Colorado Access has developed OKRs, which have been used as a goal-setting framework that aligns the organization around a shared strategy that will propel the organization further and faster. By identifying one of our top OKRs as being a member-centered organization, Colorado Access is inherently fostering a culture of safety, prioritizing the well-being and satisfaction of its members above all else. This commitment to member-centered care underscores the organization’s dedication to not only meeting but exceeding the highest standards of quality and safety in health care delivery. By embracing OKRs as a goal-setting framework, Colorado Access empowers its teams to align efforts, drive progress, and ultimately propel the organization toward its overarching mission with unprecedented efficiency.

In essence, ensuring patient safety transcends mere regulatory compliance or reactive measures – it necessitates a proactive, comprehensive approach ingrained within the fabric of health care delivery. Policies serve as the cornerstone, providing a roadmap for standardized practices and reducing the cognitive load on health care providers. Moreover, by mitigating risks before they manifest as safety concerns and educating patients about potential hazards, we empower individuals to be active participants in their own safety. At Colorado Access, our commitment to safety is not just a checkbox; it’s embedded within our organizational DNA, reflected in our OKRs framework that prioritizes member-centered care above all else. Through strategic integration of local and national regulatory frameworks, proactive surveillance, and a culture of collaboration, we are resolute in our mission to deliver health care excellence that exceeds expectations and ensures the well-being of all those we serve by ensuring patient safety.