Building a Safer Health System

Human beings, in all lines of work, make errors. To err is human, after all.

But creating solutions, finding better alternatives and meeting the challenges ahead are also part of human nature – and that’s exactly what Elk Regional Health Center does on a daily basis.

At ERHC, patient safety is of the utmost importance. Error prevention is a large part of a safe patient atmosphere. Safety is, in turn, a critical first step toward improving the quality of care. And in health care, it’s important for systems to be designed in such a way as to ensure patients are safe from accidental injury.

In November 1999, the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, issued a report entitled “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System” that focused on medical errors. The report was based on multiple studies and concluded that approximately 98,000 people die each year in hospitals as a result of preventable medical errors.

Time and time again, ERHC has successfully answered the call for a comprehensive approach by health care providers to reduce the number of medical errors and improve patient safety.

“At Elk Regional Health Center, we have come a long way in the past 10 years and continue to make improvements when it comes to patient safety,” said Greg Bauer, ERHS’s president and CEO. “We have implemented many patient safety initiatives that larger hospitals do not have. At Elk Regional, patient safety is an organizational goal that is supported by the board of directors, hospital leadership and our physicians and employees.”

Patient safety is a nationwide initiative. Pennsylvania was the first state in America to create a patient safety authority to trend and research patient safety errors and find improvements for those errors.

In September 2008, ERHC implemented the National Patient Safety Goals. Since then, ERHC has continued to improve on various areas of safety throughout the hospital. Some of the new initiatives undertaken include:

  • the hire of a patient safety officer who works closely with a interdisciplinary team to evaluate and develop new patient safety protocols;
  • the establishment of a patient safety team that coordinates and guides new priorities and efforts to make our hospital a safe place to receive care;
  • the use of Bedside Medication Verification, or BMV, to reduce the number of medication errors. Since implementation just over a year ago, BMV has a 99.6 percent accuracy rate for ERHC;
  • the use of electronic medication administration records, or EMAR, to ensure the right medications are being given to the right patient at the right time;
  • the establishment of a fall prevention program to reduce the risk of falls for individuals in their homes or in the hospital;
  • the use of two patient identifiers for medications and other procedures;
  • the read-back of verbal orders to ensure accuracy; and
  • the elimination of the use of dangerous abbreviations.

“We have a safety culture that focuses on improving the reliability and safety of care we provide to our patients every day,” said Deborah Garrett, ERHC’s chief nursing officer. “We have high standards and expectations when it comes to patient safety and our pursuit of excellence.”

Photo: Pictured from left to right are Chris Barackman, RPh, ERHC’s Director of Pharmacy; Matt Romania, RN, Patient Safety Officer/Quality Director and Amber Wickett, Nurse Aide, as they demonstrate ERHC’s patient safety initiatives.

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