Let’s improve safety of our health systems

Many milestones have been reached by various organisations in Kenya to improve the safety of the healthcare system through standardisation.

Photo credit: Unsplash

In the period between March 12 and March 18, 2023, the world marked the annual Patient Safety Awareness Week (PSAW).

This is an initiative of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), which aims at encouraging everyone to learn about healthcare safety. 

The purpose of this article is to highlight significant historical initiatives that have shaped today’s advances towards better healthcare systems.

As a result, one cannot overemphasize this year’s theme and the call to improve healthcare system safety for patients and care teams. Previous initiatives made an important contribution to improving the safety of healthcare systems around the world. The big change occurred at the turn of the century.

This was accomplished through the landmark research work titled To Err is Human, published as a book in 1999 by the former Institute of Medicine (IOM), now the National Academy of Medicine, which provided evidence of the gaps in the US healthcare system. 

One of their findings was that people believed the healthcare industry was safer than the airline industry. However, using data, they revealed that flying was far safer than dealing with the healthcare system.

The number of people dying from adverse events in the healthcare system was compared to a jumbo jet crashing every day for a year. Notably, unlike the healthcare system, the airline industry received immense attention which helped them improve their safety processes.

The ideas for improvement came in the form of a second book, Crossing the Quality Chasm, by the same organisation. 

Leadership buy-in 

They emphasized the importance of improving leadership and direction, recognising that organisational leadership buy-in would be critical in implementing these recommendations. 

There are critical emerging challenges to workplace safety, such as workplace violence and mental health, which must be adequately addressed.

There are many challenges in healthcare systems. Solutions have been suggested, but we in the Global South may be in a worse state because the evidence provided was from US healthcare systems.

The main burden remains to domesticate the findings to our settings, implementing the recommendations made (or, better yet, developing homegrown solutions).

Many milestones have been reached by various organisations in Kenya to improve the safety of the healthcare system through standardisation.

These efforts include the formulation of guidelines and standards, such as the Kenya Quality Model for Health by the Ministry of Health, the WHO Global Patient Safety Action Plan, ISO standards for healthcare, the JCI Standards, and so on. These are great efforts.

Evidence-based safety guidelines are a better way to establish a benchmark for improving the healthcare system’s safety.

Ms Wangui is Quality and Safety Manager, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital