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Using Healthcare Risk Management Technology to Improve Patient Safety

By Origami Risk

“Studies to determine the incidence of errors leading to injuries and deaths in hospitals began in the early 1970s,” write Michael J. Saks and Stephan Landsman — authors of Closing Death’s Door: Legal Innovations to End the Epidemic of Healthcare Harm — in a STAT article that examines the use of system redesign and the law to reduce iatrogenic harm. “A meta-analysis of such studies concluded that the average annual death rate from such errors in the first decade of the 2000s was in the neighborhood of 250,000. That’s more than enough to make ‘medical care gone awry’ the number three cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.”

Efforts to uncover the causes of errors and implement changes that make a difference should leave no stone unturned. The use of an integrated healthcare risk management technology solution that seamlessly and securely connects with the other software systems in place at hospitals and healthcare organizations can play a key role in improving transparency, eliminating hazardous conditions, and contributing to improved outcomes.

Better Reporting of Patient Safety Events

Making informed decisions that will improve patient safety requires data. Access to accurate and timely data is often dependent on the means available to staff for reporting incidents, near misses, and unsafe conditions. Modern healthcare risk management software includes tools that make reporting as straightforward as possible.

Presented with easy-to-use forms and clear instructions, employees are more likely to recognize safety events and hazards for what they are and follow through with reporting them. A healthcare risk management software solution that allows for reporting from any location via mobile device further improves reporting habits and adds to a culture of safety. Finally, providing employees with the option to submit reports anonymously conveys that the reporting of incidents and near misses is about safety rather than punishment or shaming. This further increases the likelihood that safety events will be reported.

The Elimination of Silos and Streamlining of Processes

Many healthcare organizations are hamstrung by insufficient, ineffective communication and convoluted, inefficient processes. Healthcare risk management software breaks down data silos and supports healthcare safety and compliance processes by connecting decision makers to data and supporting clear, definitive action. This is especially crucial when it comes to addressing sentinel events, which the Joint Commission defines as “any unanticipated event in a healthcare setting that results in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient or patients, not related to the natural course of the patient’s illness.”

Automation functionality present in integrated healthcare risk management software also provides efficiency and increases accuracy by simplifying or, in many cases, eliminating many repetitive, time-consuming administrative tasks. Offloading such tasks can help reduce human error that can lead to medical error, while also allowing staff to return their focus to the most important priority: patient care.

Access to In-Depth Analysis

With simplified data collection and automated processes in place, staff are freed up to focus on the trends and underlying causes behind medical errors and other patient safety issues. As noted in the article 10 Healthcare Quality Improvement Trends You Can’t Ignore, “With the help of big data and smart analytics, we are at a point in healthcare [where] we can make a near-certain prediction about possible complications a patient can face, their possible re-admission, and the outcomes of a care plan devised for them,” notes the author  Not only [does analysis] translate to better health outcomes for the patients, it could also make a difference in improving reimbursements and regulatory compliance.”

When viewed as an individual metric, medical error only reveals so much. For example, an incident report may indicate only that a patient received the wrong dose of a medication. Additional analysis can reveal the “how” and “why” — necessary information for implementing lasting change — behind such a data point. Unearthing less obvious root causes allows for the development of more precise preventative actions and contributes to a culture of readiness that reduces harm and saves lives.

Bringing the Pieces Together

Healthcare excellence requires data-informed strategy and cross-departmental collaboration. The safety of patients depends on it. Integrated healthcare risk management software allows organizations to more readily adapt to change, efficiently and securely collect data, automate processes, and turn data into insights. With the elimination of silos, the ability to analyze root causes, and dissemination of actionable tasks, organizations can focus on creating change that drives down medical errors and improves patient safety outcomes.