The Importance of Better Patient Safety in Hospitals

Importance of Better Patient Safety in Hospitals (2)
May 8, 2023

Hospitals and healthcare providers have a duty to provide safe and effective care to their patients, and when they fail to do so, the consequences can be devastating. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) sheds light on the rates of preventable safety events in hospitals, highlighting the need for hospitals to prioritize patient safety in inpatient care.

One in Four Patients Admitted To Hospitals Experience An Adverse Event

The New England Journal of Medicine published a new study on patient safety that found patients admitted to hospitals are at risk of suffering from preventable harm during their stays. The study examined a random sample of nearly 3,000 admissions in 11 Massachusetts hospitals in 2018 and found that one in four patients admitted to hospitals experience an adverse event and that 23% of those adverse events were preventable. Additionally, one-third of the adverse events were found to be at a severity level of serious or higher.

Adverse drug events were the most common type of adverse event (39%), followed by surgical or other procedures (30.4%), patient care events, such as falls and pressure ulcers (15%), and infections (11.9%).

What Are Preventable Safety Events?

Importance of Better Patient Safety in Hospitals (2)

Preventable safety events are incidents that occur during medical care that could have been avoided with proper precautions, protocols, and procedures in place. These events are also known as preventable harm or medical errors and can result in harm to patients, including:

  • extended hospital stays
  • increased medical costs
  • disability
  • or even death

Examples of Preventable Safety Events

Examples of preventable safety events include:

Preventable Safety Events Lead To Patient Harm/Death

As medical malpractice lawyers, we have seen firsthand the devastating impact that preventable safety events can have on patients and their families. These events can result in extended hospital stays, increased medical costs, and in the worst cases, permanent disability or even death. As such, healthcare organizations must implement comprehensive patient safety programs that address the various factors that contribute to preventable safety events.

Hospitals Need Comprehensive Patient Safety Programs

Comprehensive patient safety programs can include measures such as:

Medication Reconciliation

Medication reconciliation is a process of reviewing and comparing a patient's medication orders across different healthcare settings to ensure that medications are prescribed, dispensed, and administered correctly. The goal of medication reconciliation is to prevent medication errors, such as prescribing a medication that a patient is allergic to, taking duplicate medications, or taking medications that may interact with each other.

Medication reconciliation typically involves a healthcare provider, such as a pharmacist or a nurse, reviewing a patient's medication history, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements. The provider then compares the medication orders with the patient's current medications, checking for any discrepancies or changes that may have occurred during hospitalization or a change in care setting. Any discrepancies are then addressed and reconciled with the patient's medical team.

Why Is Medication Reconciliation Important?

Medication reconciliation is important for ensuring patient safety and can reduce the risk of medication errors. According to the National Quality Forum, medication errors account for 20% of adverse drug events, and up to 66% of medication errors occur during care transitions, such as hospital admission or discharge.

Hand Hygiene Protocols

Hand hygiene protocols are a set of guidelines and practices designed to promote hand hygiene among healthcare providers to prevent the spread of infections. Hand hygiene is a critical component of infection control, as healthcare providers can spread pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, from patient to patient if they do not practice proper hand hygiene.

Hand hygiene protocols typically include several key elements, including:


This involves washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for each patient, before and after touching a patient's body fluids or excretions, and after removing gloves.

Proper Technique

Healthcare providers should use proper hand hygiene techniques, including:

  • wetting hands with water
  • applying soap or sanitizer
  • rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds
  • rinsing hands thoroughly
  • and drying hands with a clean towel or air dryer.

Education and Training

Healthcare providers should receive regular education and training on hand hygiene protocols, including the importance of hand hygiene, proper technique, and when to perform hand hygiene.

Monitoring and Feedback

Hand hygiene compliance should be monitored and feedback provided to healthcare providers to improve adherence to hand hygiene protocols.

Access to Supplies

Hand hygiene supplies, such as:

  • soap
  • water
  • hand sanitizer
  • and gloves

should be readily available to healthcare providers in all patient care areas.

Why Is Effective Hand Hygiene Important?

Effective hand hygiene protocols can help reduce the spread of infections in healthcare settings, including hospital-acquired infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), proper hand hygiene can reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections by up to 50%.

Bed Sore (Pressure Ulcer) Prevention Strategies

Hospitals have several strategies to prevent bed sores in patients who are bedridden or have limited mobility. Here are some of them:

  • Regular turning and repositioning: Patients who are bedridden should be turned and repositioned regularly to relieve pressure on specific areas of the body.
  • Pressure redistribution surfaces: Hospitals may use special mattresses, overlays, or cushions that redistribute pressure and reduce the risk of bed sores.
  • Skincare: Hospitals can implement daily skin checks and use specialized skin care products to keep skin clean, dry, and healthy.
  • Nutrition: Adequate nutrition is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Hospitals may consult with a nutritionist to develop an appropriate diet plan for patients.
  • Education: Hospitals can educate patients, families, and caregivers about the risks of bed sores and how to prevent them.
  • Use of technology: Some hospitals may use technology, such as pressure sensors or cameras, to monitor patients and prevent bed sores.

Utilizing Technology to Identify Safety Risks

In addition, hospitals can improve patient safety by utilizing technology and data analytics to monitor and identify potential safety risks. For example, electronic health records can be used to track medication orders, reducing the risk of medication errors. Similarly, data analytics can help identify patients at higher risk of developing infections or pressure ulcers, allowing for targeted interventions.

Effective Communication

Another key aspect of ensuring patient safety in inpatient care is effective communication and collaboration between healthcare providers. This can include:

  • clear and concise handoffs between shifts
  • regular interdisciplinary team meetings
  • and open communication channels between physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

Medical Malpractice Lawyers Push For Improved Patient Safety

As medical malpractice lawyers, we believe that hospitals and healthcare providers must be held accountable when they fail to provide safe and effective care to their patients. However, we also believe that preventing these events from happening in the first place is the best course of action. By prioritizing patient safety and implementing comprehensive patient safety programs, hospitals can ensure that their patients receive the best possible care and avoid preventable harm.

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