The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a report earlier this year that details the top ten patient safety strategies that could be immediately implemented by healthcare providers. If every hospital were to enact these recommendations then hospitals would be safer for all of us. Fewer patients would face serious injuries or even death because of what happens to them inside the place where they go to get well. This sort of prophylactic action could ultimately decrease the number of medical malpractice cases and ultimately drive down malpractice insurance costs, meaning doctors and hospitals would benefit as well.
What is the AHRQ?
The AHRQ is a part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. According to the agency's website, the mission of the AHRQ, “is to produce evidence to make healthcare safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.” This mission resonates with many people who have been victims of medical malpractice and with the attorney who represent them. While recovering financial loses is part of the goal in a personal injury or wrongful death case, in most cases the injured party also has a strong desire to prevent other people from being injured in the future.
What are the Report's Recommendations?
The AHRQ came up with ten strategies that the agency believes have the potential to vastly improve patient safety and save lives if they are widely implemented. Agency Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. said of the strategies, “We have the evidence to show what really works to make care safer...Armed with this knowledge about what works and how to apply it, we can continue to advance our efforts to ensure patient safety.” The ten recommended patient safety strategies, as listed in an agency press release, include the use of:
1. Preoperative checklists and anesthesia checklists to prevent operative and postoperative events.
2. Bundles that include checklists to prevent central line-associated bloodstream infections.
3. Interventions to reduce urinary catheter use, including catheter reminders, stop orders, or nurse-initiated removal protocols.
4. Bundles that include head-of-bed elevation, sedation vacations, oral care with chlorhexidine, and subglottic-suctioning endotracheal tubes to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia.
5. Hand hygiene.
6. The do-not-use list for hazardous abbreviations.
7. Multicomponent interventions to reduce pressure ulcers.
8. Barrier precautions to prevent healthcare-associated infections.
9. Use of real-time ultrasonography for central line placement.
10. Interventions to improve prophylaxis for venous thromboembolisms (Thromboembolisms are blockages of blood vessels caused by a stationary blood clot).
If used, these strategies can especially help prevent healthcare associated infections, bedsores, and medication errors. The report does not just list strategies, however. It also details evidence about the implementation of these strategies and provides information about the context in which they have been used. The hope is that this additional information will allow healthcare providers to adapt the strategies to their own facilities and needs. Some of these strategies are already used in many hospitals, while some are still relatively uncommon.
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