Every year on September 17, the world comes together to celebrate World Patient Safety Day, a day dedicated to recognising the central role that patients, families and caregivers play in ensuring the safety of healthcare.
This year's theme, 'Engaging patients for patient safety', highlights the importance of actively involving patients in their healthcare journey. Health facilities must embrace this theme and firmly believe that patient engagement is not just a slogan, but a fundamental principle that guides our approach to healthcare.
Established by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Patient Safety Day aims to raise global awareness of the need for active patient involvement at all levels of healthcare to improve patient safety. It is an opportunity to engage policymakers, healthcare leaders, healthcare workers, patient organisations, civil society and other stakeholders in the collective effort to improve patient safety and reduce patient harm.
Effective communication between patients and healthcare providers is critical to ensuring patient safety. However, challenges remain. Patients are often interrupted within seconds of sharing their medical history, and a significant percentage of diagnostic errors can be attributed to miscommunication. In today's fast-paced, technology-driven healthcare environment, these communication barriers are exacerbated.
There is a need to recognise the critical importance of addressing these issues. Hospitals must prioritise patient-provider communication by creating an environment that encourages active patient participation. Patients are not passive recipients of care; they are partners in their healthcare journey. Engaging patients as active partners leads to tangible improvements in safety, patient satisfaction and overall quality of care.
To ensure patient safety and promote patient engagement, health facilities should ensure the following.
1. Medication safety: Medication errors can have serious consequences. To reduce this risk, hospitals should implement strict medication safety protocols. This includes double-checking prescriptions, verifying correct dosages and educating patients about their medications.
2. Quality assurance and reporting: Hospitals should maintain dedicated quality assurance teams that continuously monitor and assess the quality of care provided to patients. This creates a culture of transparency, learning, and improvement, which helps prevent future incidents.
3. Infection control: Infection control is of top priority. Strict measures should be implemented to prevent the spread of infection. This includes rigorous hand hygiene practices, thorough sterilisation of equipment and isolation protocols for infectious patients. Our commitment to infection control helps protect both patients and healthcare workers.
4. Training and education: Hospitals must implement rigorous training programmes that cover infection control, proper medication administration and adherence to safety protocols. Well-trained staff are more likely to provide safe and effective care.
5. Patient identification: Patient safety starts with accurate patient identification. Advanced systems and technologies must be in place to ensure correct patient identification. Wristbands with patient information and pre-procedure verification of patient information are standard practices to prevent errors in treatment or medication administration.
World Patient Safety Day, health facilities should advocate for patients' active participation in healthcare.
The World Patient Safety Day serves as a reminder of the critical role that patients and their families play in healthcare safety. As we celebrate World Patient Safety Day, let us all work together to prioritise patient safety and ensure that every patient's voice is heard and valued.
Susan Wakarugi, Chief Nursing Officer, The Nairobi West Hospital