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Medical errors and the lack of patient safety is a leading cause of death in the United States and this why healthcare organizations must set patient safety as a top priority. The foundation of a safe healthcare visit is the partnership between medical providers and the patient.

 

Facts and Figures

According to a 2016 study conducted by the British Medical Journal, adverse patient safety errors and medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Another report run by National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the National Patient Safety Foundation (IHI/NPS), and the Lucian Leape Institute in 2017 found that 21 percent of patients experience a medical error. The World Health Organization also reported that the additional hospitalization, infections acquired in hospitals, litigation costs, lost productivity, disability, and medical expenses cost some nations as much as $19 billion annually. The economic benefits of improving patient safety are astounding.

 

Introducing PACs

“When patients come for care, they expect that harm won’t come to themselves or their loved one,” Gary Yates, MD, a strategic consulting partner at Press Ganey and patient safety expert, said. “They expect us to deliver the highest technical quality care, and they also expect us to treat them with dignity and respect, and that caregivers will approach them with empathy and understanding. Safety is a fundamental component of the overall patient experience.”

Many healthcare organizations are beginning to introduce PACs, Patient Advisory Councils. PACs are typically comprised of patients, support systems (family, friends), primary care providers, and healthcare staff working collectively on a shared goal—improve safety, quality, and the patient experience. Additionally, healthcare organizations may introduce a Patient Family Advisory Committee (PFAC) in replacement of a PAC.

The First Street Family Health Center in Salida, Colorado first started a PAC to help the organization place a focus on patient safety. The PAC at First Street Family Health Center met one to two times a month to develop action and improvement plans as well as practice walk-throughs and simulations. The PAC at First Street Family Health Center has become a model for patient safety development and the voice of patient advocacy. Through the PAC system, the healthcare organization saw enhanced patient self-care, improved satisfaction, improved communication, and heightened patient engagement.

 

PACs may be the answer for increasing patient safety. Be sure to check back soon for an article on planning and developing a PAC!

 

Mitra Rangarajan is an expert in the healthcare field and strives to empower patients to take charge of their health and safety. Read more on her patient safety research here!