Sunday, 17 August 2014

Keeping patients safe

Many patients and their families are the richest resources of information about patient safety. After all, they are the ones who're affected by such adverse incidents. - AFP

Many patients and their families are the richest resources of information about patient safety. After all, they are the ones who're affected by such adverse incidents. - AFP

Patient safety involves not only the healthcare delivery system, but also patients and their families.

Medicine has made tremendous progress since the end of WWII. There is better understanding and knowledge about many conditions today.

It is now possible to diagnose and treat conditions which were once not diagnosable or treatable.

The diagnosis and treatment of many conditions have also improved, with increased effectiveness and fewer side effects.

Yet, modern healthcare is not without its risks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there is a one in a million chance of being harmed while travelling in an aircraft; one in 300 chance during healthcare; and one in 10 chance while receiving hospital care.

Healthcare-associated infections are acquired by seven out of every 100 hospitalised patients at any given time in developed countries and 10 out of every 100 in developing countries.

Patient safety

A simple definition of patient safety is “the avoidance, prevention and amelioration of adverse outcomes or injuries stemming from the process of healthcare”.

Although it is a common perception that patient safety is the responsibility of healthcare professionals, health facilities, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies, other suppliers and health facility managers, it is not really so.

Policy makers, governments, and most importantly, patients and their families, have a significant role to play in patient safety.

Learning is the basis of systemic quality and safety that minimises the risks of healthcare. This involves not only the healthcare delivery system, but also patients and their families, many of whom are not cognizant of the complexities and uncertainties of healthcare.

The WHO launched its patient safety programme in October 2004 with the objective of “bringing significant benefits to patients in countries rich and poor, developed and developing, in all corners of the globe”.

The Patients for Patient Safety (PFPS) is a core action of WHO’s patient safety programme. Its objective is “to ensure that the perspective of patients and families shapes the important work of the programme and the global patient safety movement”.

The personal stories of patients and their families about the impact of preventable harm on their lives have motivated healthcare professionals whose sine qua non has always been “first, do no harm”.

When an adverse event occurs, it is not uncommon for a “wall of silence” to be erected and interactions between patients and healthcare professionals cease.

The concerns of patients and their families are often perceived as threats or tales without basis, instead of potential knowledge contributions.

Patient involvement at managerial and policymaking levels is often minimal as they are perceived to be not cognizant of the complexities and uncertainties of healthcare.

This approach ignores the fact that many patients and their families are the richest resources of information about patient safety as their experience of systems failures are comprehensive (from the beginning to the end).

There is an increasing recognition of the benefits of patient involvement that has resulted in positive changes that have improved patient safety globally.

Patients and families who partner with healthcare professionals and policymakers are highly motivated, eager to contribute and knowledgeable. Their desire is to contribute to building a healthcare delivery system that is safe and compassionate for all stakeholders, a truly patient-centred healthcare.

PFPS Malaysia Declaration 2014

The WHO and the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health conducted a “Patients for Patient Safety” workshop in September 2013 in Putrajaya.

The participants, who were selected in accordance with the WHO criteria, formulated a declaration which was launched by the Health Minister on April 29, 2014. It is reproduced in toto below.

“We, the participants of the inaugural Malaysian Patients for Patient Safety workshop convened in September 2013, will share the profound healthcare experiences in our lives and take forward our call to action to improve patient safety in Malaysia.

“We are patients, family members, carers and health professionals – people from all walks of life. Each of us is a testament to the personal experience of unintended harm and its continuing impact. Much of that harm was preventable.

“We declare:

·We, Patients for Patient Safety Malaysia, are committed to the right to safe healthcare. We expect honesty, openness and transparency.

·Patient safety is a basic human right. We will make the reduction of harmful incidents a priority to improve the quality of healthcare. When harmed, patients and their caregivers have the right to timely apology, explanation, redress and other remedies meaningful to them.

·Our trusted healthcare providers must recognise that we, your patients and our families, are an invaluable asset and resource for improving patient safety. We offer our stories and experiences. Seek to learn from our hard won wisdom and partner with us to make lasting improvement.

·We have collective responsibility for our healthcare systems, and we ask everyone in the community, including healthcare providers and the Government, to join us in making the right to safe healthcare a priority for all people at all times.

·We, Patients for Patient Safety Malaysia, will be the voice for all people, especially those who are now unheard. Together as partners, we will collaborate in devising and promoting programmes for patient safety, patient empowerment and patient engagement; developing and driving a constructive dialogue with all partners concerned with patient safety; establishing systems for reporting and dealing with patient safety incidents; and identifying inpatient safety best practices and promoting those best practices.

“This declaration is our calling. We, the Patient for Patient Safety Malaysia, invite you to join us and advance patient safety for everyone. This is our pledge of partnership.”

> More information can be found at Dr Milton Lum is director of Medical Defence Malaysia. The views expressed do not represent that of any organisation that the writer is associated with. For further information, e-mail The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Tags / Keywords: patient safety


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