By Susan Pos
Healthcare facilities play an important role in protecting, improving, and maintaining the health of the communities. In the past three years, hospitals and healthcare services have been under immense pressure to provide quality healthcare for patients while ensuring the safety of both patients and staff. The need for a robust, sustainable, and easily accessible healthcare system is felt more than ever. This might be the ideal moment for the healthcare sector to adopt and incorporate a broader sustainability system through environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy. Sustainability in healthcare centers around a structure that aims toward improving the infrastructural facilities, safety, and maintaining and restoring health.
The incidence of adverse events due to unsafe care is one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability in the world. Globally, over 4 in 10 patients are harmed in primary and outpatient healthcare out of which 80% of it is preventable. Unsafe care leads to at least 2.6 million deaths every year. The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription, and the use of medicines. Hence, patient safety is fundamental to delivering quality health services. As global priorities shift, focus on the ‘social’ aspect of ESG strategy which includes patient safety is increasing.
Incorporating patient safety protocol in healthcare
Safe and high-quality services for patients are a precondition for the healthcare system and a measure toward effective universal health coverage (UHC) under Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote health and well-being for all at all ages). Making healthcare safe in the age of unknown new diseases, stronger medications, and complex healthcare situations remains tricky. Healthcare institutions and providers also find it difficult to understand and report the necessary and core metrics to evaluate patient safety. Some of the key metrics to measure and monitor the quality of service and the ways the service is delivered include:
- Hospital-acquired infection rate: Hospital-acquired infections occur due to negligence in medical care. Invasive procedures and medical devices are the most common cause of infections. Healthcare institutions must frame stringent infection prevention and management measures to reduce these unforeseen cases and ensure reliable and safe treatment for the patients. For instance, the Evercare Group has achieved hospital-acquired infection rates of 0.53% in India, which is below the international benchmark of 1%.
- Unplanned return to the operating room: An unplanned return to the operating room implies any secondary procedure that is required due to a complication resulting directly or indirectly from the initial operation. It usually often occurs because of any error in the procedure itself. Monitoring of readmission rates is also crucial for medical administration as it may signify premature discharge without proper assessment of the patient’s medical needs.
- Compulsory safety standards: It is the responsibility of healthcare facilities to provide their patients with a safe and sound environment. Every healthcare institution must have mandatory safety standards which are in adherence with the Joint Commission International (JCI) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) performance standards. These must be monitored on a regular basis to identify the areas of improvement and take remedial steps accordingly. Some of the safety protocols involve proper patient identification, fire safety, hazardous material safety, safe surgery, and critical equipment safety among others. At the Evercare Group, the average returns to the operating room and readmission rates are 0.12% and 0.36% respectively within a 48-hour timeframe, as against the set benchmark of 0.38% and 0.48% respectively.
- Other measures: Establishing proper guidelines, policies, training and up-to-date treatment guidelines for clinical teams and staff are also important aspects of patient safety. Every hospital must have a separate ward for communicable diseases along with safe consumables and equipment for patients. Every hospital should have specific protocols to contain and prevent the spread of infections and maintain a safe environment for patients.
Patient safety is an internationally accepted indicator of a sustainable and quality healthcare system. As healthcare institutions navigate through their ESG policy, they should continue to include factors like patient access, quality of care, and delivery of services. The provision of safe services will not only help in bridging the gap of equitable healthcare but will also encourage and reinstate people’s trust in the healthcare system.
(The author is Chief Nursing Officer and Head of Quality, The Evercare Group. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)