Lawyers and other professionals working in the civil justice system usually spend their time dealing with the occasions when things did not go right. Obviously it is essential that those harmed by medical errors receive the redress they need. But it is an error to lose sight of the big picture–most medical professionals are fantastic community members who do all in their power to make the lives of their patients better. Working with injury victims does not mean that attorneys fail to appreciate the great work done by so many doctors, nurses, assistants, and other medical employees.
At the same time, appreciation for that work does not mean we fail to recognize the system-wide problems with patient safety. Some estimates suggest that as many as 200,000 patients are killed–and hundreds of thousands more injured–as a result of errors each and every year. In other words, these are not isolated problems, and there are no isolated solutions. The bottom line is that medical facilities have to make a more complete effort to actually address the patient safety problem. Many good initiatives have shown promise. It is critical that those advances be publicized and mirrored by other facilities–too many lives hang in the balance to do otherwise.
Attacking Bloodstream Infections
Acquiring an infection in the bloodstream is one of the most common ways that a medical patient’s condition is made worse as a result of actions at a medical facility. Minimizing those hospital acquired infections has long-been a goal of patient safety advocates. Fortunately, some programs aimed at tackling that problem have been making some headway.
For example, the Sacramento Bee reported this week on an effort from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) which is showing promise in minimizing the development of central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLASBIs). A preliminary finding on the success of the patient safety project is that CLASBIs were reduced by 40% in intensive care unit. All told, this likely saved over 500 lives and spared the spending of $34 million in healthcare costs. There is still a long way to go, but those are very encouraging signs.
How were these results achieved? By use of the Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP). Describing CUSP, the director of the AHRQ explains that “this project gives us the framework for taking research to scale in practical ways that help front-line clinicians provide the safest care possible for the patients.”
CUSP is not necessarily a one-sized-fits all program. Instead, it involves customization for different teams. Underlying it all is a program that seeks to help care workers identify the actual safety problems before figuring out solutions. Part of CUSP comes from work out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which released evidence-based recommendations on infection prevention and treatment.
Those interested in learning more can head to the AHRQs CUSP website. It provide additional details about the nationwide rollout of the program. In addition you can get a copy of the “toolkit” which is used as the base building block for CUSP.
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