It comes as a shock when a loved one dies during a routine hospital visit. It is assumed that hospital employees do everything they can to make your visit as safe as possible, however, hospital-related deaths in the United States number from around 98,000 to 440,000 each year according to a study conducted in 2013. Hospitals take patient safety seriously and are implementing measures and training employees in an attempt to reduce the number of these fatalities.
Private and public organizations have formed to address the problem of hospital fatalities. The most high-profile programs are The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, The Armstrong Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and The Partnership for Patients. All three organizations endeavor to work closely with hospital administrators to implement simple programs designed to reduce hospital fatality rates. The reasons that patients die in hospitals are many, but the main focus of these groups is on preventing infection. Infections alone account for around 75,000 needless, preventable hospital deaths per year.
In an effort to reduce infections, hospitals are implementing programs patterned after the infection-preventing pioneer Florence Nightingale, to get all hospital workers to be cognizant of the role they can play in improving hospital hygiene. The program focusses on getting workers to wash their hands as the first thing they do when they enter a patient’s room. Studies have shown that prioritizing hand washing is inconsistent in hospitals and that workers forget most of the time. Those in charge of hospital patient safety are implementing the use of video cameras, standardizing the placement of sinks, and installing sensors to prevent one from having to touch a lever to turn the water on and off as measures to monitor and encourage hand washing.
In addition to hand washing, hospitals report cutting the incidences of bloodstream infections in half by prioritizing hygiene prior to common procedures like inserting needles and catheters. Hospitals also have attempted to identify and reduce needless catheterizations.
Cutting the infection rate in surgery is another area that is getting attention. Standardized surgical procedures can be hygienically improved to reduce the incidences of infection. Orlando Health has reduced surgical-related infectious deaths by 44 percent over the last 4 years in their 7 hospitals by limiting surgical personnel entering and exiting the surgical room, prohibiting personal items like backpacks and cell phones from entering the operating room, and by using ultraviolet disinfection methods.
Reducing pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores in patients that are confined to their beds is yet another area where patient infections occur. Skin ulcers can develop in as little as two hours and hospitals that are successful in reducing their incidences are addressing the following areas of concern:
- Ensuring that the patient eats properly and stays hydrated
- Preventing and treating wet skin irritations
- Eliminate a patient’s contact with medical devices
- Standardize regular inspections for these items
- Vigilantly maintaining these procedures
Hospitals that are making pressure ulcers a priority, i.e., inspecting and treating for a lack of hygiene, nutrition, and hydration, have reduced the incidences of pressure ulcers by 40% to 95%. In addition to reducing the incidences of infections, other measures that are being taken to reduce patient fatality rates are preventing blood clots, early detection of sepsis, and preventing falling injuries.
Thanks to: NY Times’ Blog