Facility Dude

Do you know the main safety concerns facing hospital patients?

By Wendy Mallon
Aug 04, 2015

Healthcare, Safety and Risk Management

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Do you know the main safety concerns facing hospital patients? Staff members at hospitals and care facilities are dedicated to looking after the health and well-being of their patients. But while doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are often equipped with state of the art medical technology and are armed with the best knowledge, ensuring patient safety isn't always as simple as writing the right prescription.

Diseases and injuries aren't the only dangers patients can face in a hospital setting. There are many in-house factors that your staff members may not be aware of that can endanger the people in their care. Here are a few of the major safety concerns to be on the lookout for.

Healthcare-associated infections

The vast majority of the time, patients come to a hospital to get rid of an infection or disease, not to get a new one. But the reality is that sometimes patients - and even staff members - can contract infections from the clinic itself and end up even sicker than when they arrived. HAIs are not uncommon in the medical world. In fact, the Becker Hospital Review noted that data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  indicated 1 in 25 patients will contract an HAI during their stay. Hospitals are meant to be sterile environments, but there are still a large number of germs present at various places on-site. Implementing and enforcing a strict hand-washing policy is crucial, as is designing your building for properly containing pathogens.

The CDC outlined guidelines for how hospitals can use air pressure differential to maintain certain "sterile rooms" that are free of any germs thanks to differences in pressure, which force potentially contaminated out through the HVAC system.

Alarm hazards

Hospitals are outfitted with many alarm systems of various kinds to keep the staff informed of any hazards that could pose a threat to patient safety. But what happens when those alarms don't work properly, or when staff members fail to notice them? According to a report from the ECRI Institute, alarm hazards are the No. 1 cause of patient health risks in hospitals, due largely to two factors.

First, the report noted what is called "alarm fatigue" - when doctors and nurses who constantly hear dozens of alarms every day eventually tune out these alerts. While normally not a big deal, this means that in an actual emergency, they are likely to be much slower to respond. The second risk factor is maintenance-related. When patient alert alarms fail to work, it can leave individuals unable to reach a medical professional in the event of an emergency. Make sure you inspect your alarm system regularly to avoid this.

Incorrect data

The Internet and cloud computing has changed the health care industry, and electronic health records have been adopted by an increasing number of clinics. In some instances, IT snafus or other technical difficulties can affect the integrity of a patient's EHR, sometimes omitting crucial information. Similarly, EHRs that are shared between multiple servers - say, different specialists - can sometimes fail to transmit this data from one system to the other. This is a particular risk if a patient is being treated by multiple care providers for a single ailment, as effective coordinated care relies heavily on the accuracy of information.

Violent incidents

As much as people don't like to think about it, hospital staff are faced with violent incidents more frequently than they'd like to admit. Belligerent patients or even family members can become aggressive, potentially threatening the safety of others. It's essential that your facility acknowledge patient violence as a workplace hazard so you can implement an action plan in the event that such an instance occurs. Additionally, doctors and nurses should have access to counselors and mental health professionals so they don't have to be on the front line during these occurrences.

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