Step-by-Step Safety

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Patient safety is a top priority for hospital leaders across the country, but when it comes to achieving safety goals--or even defining what those goals should be--most executives receive little guidance. A collaborative of three hospital systems aims to change that.

The Safest Hospital Alliance, composed of Adventist Health System in Winter Park, FL, Novant Health in Winston-Salem, NC, and Wellmont Health System in Kingsport, TN, is developing a comprehensive approach to patient safety by specifying how a "safe" hospital should function, creating metrics and defining best practices.

"There is no real definition of safety, no template for a hospital to follow that says 'if you do this, you will be safe' or 'these are the things to do to be safe,'" says Anthony Oliva, DO, chief medical officer at Wellmont. "That was really the theoretical impetus that started this process."

The alliance is in the process of defining safety by creating step-by-step, best practice templates that address 170 key safety indicators. Participating hospitals will receive templates that outline how to meet the indicators, with those adhering to the process 90 percent of the time being designated as "safe." The group expects to become a resource for other healthcare systems and will share program templates, initiate consulting services and offer training programs.

"There are some things that we do every day that are so vitally important that you can't afford to not do them or you will have a bad outcome," Oliva says. "These checklists are put together in such a way that they can actually be monitored for performance."

The alliance is trying to determine how to make the templates easily transferable to facilities across the nation without significant costs or increases in treatment allocations.

In addition to increasing patient safety, hospitals following the templates can reap financial benefits as well, say proponents. Preliminary estimates suggest that implementing the templates could reduce healthcare costs by 20 to 30 percent.

"If you don't have any infections, if you don't have any falls, if you don't have any transfusion reactions, obviously the cost is going to go way down for healthcare," says Richard Salluzzo, MD, president and chief executive officer of Wellmont and founder of the Safest Hospital Alliance.

The alliance has support from The Joint Commission as well, with representatives from the accreditation organization saying the initiative could have a hand in improving safety at healthcare facilities across the country. "Through their commitment and collaboration, these hospital systems can identify safe practices that could be of value in The Joint Commission's dissemination through the accreditation process of methods to improve patient safety," says Paul M. Schyve, MD, senior vice president of The Joint Commission.

-Ben Cole

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