Patient Safety Awareness Week Q&A with Vytalize’s Priority Care Team

Article | 03/16/2023

Patient Safety Awareness Week 2023 takes place from March 12-18. Observed annually, this initiative created by the National Patient Safety Foundation encourages action to improve the safety of patients within the healthcare system.

At Vytalize Health, our Priority Care Team works to ensure patients remain safe in their environment, regardless of the setting. Here’s how the team defines safety and works together to assist patients, caregivers and physicians.

How do you define patient safety?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) “officially” defines patient safety as the prevention of harm to patients. There’s an emphasis on preventing errors, learning from the errors that do occur, and building on a culture of safety that involves patients, their families and the team of people providing care. The simplest definition of patient safety is the prevention of errors and adverse effects to patients associated with healthcare, which means doing everything in our power to create an environment that is safe, sanitary, patient-centered and focused on the care and comfort of the patient. Our aim related to patient safety is to deliver care in accordance with professional practice guidelines and standards that ensure patients are free from harm. There are also many concepts to consider when it comes to patient safety, including physical, mental, social, and practical considerations.

How do you ensure patient safety in all care settings – especially when administering care virtually and in the home?

There are several strategies our team uses to ensure safety in the settings we impact. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Medication reconciliation to identify issues with polypharmacy and any prescribed medication errors
    Environmental assessment to control and eliminate hazards in the home
  • Patient assessment – monitor a patient’s condition to identify and address changes as soon as possible and look for deterioration
    Use appropriate screening tools
    Educate patients and families about their care to ensure they have a thorough understanding of their medications, medical condition, and self-care routines.
    Maintain current practice guidelines and engaging in lifelong learning.
    Follow agency protocols and guidelines.
  • Communicate and collaborate among team members, providers, and patients/families.
    Advocate for patient services and available resources
    Make appropriate referrals (example: refer to pharmacist for any polypharmacy or potential adverse effects of medications)
    Engage patients and families as active participants in their care
    Care for ourselves through self-care to avoid fatigue and burnout, which can lead to mistakes and negatively affect patient safety
  • Mask and ensure proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
    Implement strategies to reduce patients’ risk for potentially avoidable conditions that lead to deterioration and hospitalization such as falls and pressure injuries
    Address issues related to isolation (example: if the patient lives alone, discuss life alert options with them and their family members)
  • ‍How does the Priority Care team work together to ensure a safe environment for their patients?
  • Share information to ensure all team members are aware of what is important for the patient, including patient and family preferences
  • Adhere to and develop protocols and guidelines for practice
    Report unsafe situations to the patient’s primary care provider (PCP) and identify which resources we reached out to for assistance
    Collaboration with the patient’s PCP can also provide additional information that can help keep the patient safe (examples include alternate contact information, pertinent social history, and additional local resource referrals)

Are there ways in which patients can ensure their own safety, even if they are more vulnerable?

  • Ensure they are up to date on vaccinations against flu and other infections to avoid complications
  • Maintain good hand hygiene. Regular hand cleaning is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent spreading germs.
    Observe and report signs of complications or deterioration
    Follow recommendations made to improve safety based on their individual safety risks. For example, fall prevention modalities: Using durable medical equipment (DME) or ordering new DME to prevent falls, installing shower handles, removing any loose rugs in the home.

When you perform a home visit, what are indicators or signs you look for to ensure patient safety?

  • Environmental issues: is there anything outside of their home that poses safety risk or can lead to falls?
    Support systems: are they in place?
  • Household hazards: survey inside the home, including bathroom, for any fall risk (loose rugs etc.)
    Determine the need for durable medical equipment (DME)
    Functional impairments
    Impaired cognitive status of the patient
    Assess mobility and stability: have the patient walk around the home with or without DME
  • Fragmentation of care
    Knowledge of self-care behaviors needed to better manage their medical conditions

What are lesser known “red flags” or warning signs when it comes to patient safety that might be easy to miss?

  • Signs of neglect
    Unprepared family caregivers
    Limited training and guidance for home care workers
    Inadequate communication among patients, caregivers and providers
    Lack of resources
  • Substance use

What can family members and caregivers do to support vulnerable loved ones?

  • Provide a support system
    Reduce potential for injury such as pressure injury
    Identify and mitigate patient safety risks
  • Engage in self-care
    Advocate for resources
    Promote independence

Who can Vytalize partner practices & providers go to with questions or concerns about patient safety?

If we as practitioners expect abuse, neglect and or lack of patient safety, by law, we must contact Adult Protective Services who will perform a thorough assessment of an at-risk adult. Every county has a different number to call.

Below are additional options that may be helpful depending on the specific safety concern:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: a free, 24/7 hotline for anyone in crisis 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: a confidential hotline for anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking information about resources 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): a national resource center for information and referrals related to mental health and substance use disorders 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Crisis Text Line: a free 24/7 text-based support service for anyone in crisis. Text HOME to 741741

To learn more about improving patient outcomes, contact us today !