Friday, March 19, 2021

A Focus on Safety is a Prerequisite to the Best Health Outcomes

This week is Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 14-21). During this week in the U.S., we have a national education campaign for promoting patient safety practices. At GBMC, we commit to achieving the best possible health outcomes for our patients and we know that we cannot do this without developing highly reliable systems that prevent harm to those in our care.

Students of safety know that atypical situations create higher risk of harm. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such atypical situation and therefore it is even more important this year to draw attention to patient safety work. 

For the past year, our physicians, nurses, and other clinicians have stood up against the pandemic while being alert (preoccupation with failure) to new potential causes of harm. One of these potential causes has been the absence of visitors. During usual times, family members at the bedside often bring forward important information for their loved one’s care. Our teams have had to redesign the system of including the family in the patient’s care by doing things such as using MyChart bedside for video meetings. Then with the cyberattack, we added safety nurses to our units for double checks that are usually done by our computer systems. 

I am so proud of how our people have used our core competency of redesigning care to keep our patients safe during the pandemic and the cyberattack. 

Our patient safety measures were tested once again last Friday. You can imagine the thoughts that were racing through my mind when I got the call that we were experiencing another IT outage. Luckily, the outage was not the result of a malicious attack but was due to an electrical failure in our main data center. Thanks to the hard work of Jim Keyzer, CHFM, our Director of Facilities, Mitchell Scholtes, Assistant Director of Facilities Operations, and their team, our systems were restored after several hours, and we were back to standard operations. I also want to thank Dave Hynson, GBMC’s Chief Information Officer, and his team for doing their part to help get our systems functioning again.

It is in these times of crisis that we must redouble our efforts to create highly reliable systems. The hard work and good intentions of our well-trained people are necessary but insufficient to achieve our vision. It is also critical that we work in highly reliable and well-designed systems with significant redundancy. We need redundancy to prevent catastrophe and recover from the failure of a specific piece of the system. 

Our patients trust us to care for them in their most vulnerable moments, and it is our duty to provide them with the best possible health outcome, which presupposes that we won’t hurt them. This week, please take the time to reflect on what we are doing to improve patient safety and to celebrate the amazing work we have done in the past year.

March has been designated as Professional Social Work Month, and this week also happens to be Human Resources in Healthcare Week (March 15-19).

Our social workers are critical to our work in identifying and mitigating issues with an individual patient’s social determinants of health like lack of insurance, homelessness, and food insecurity. Our human resource professionals work hard to develop policies to recruit and retain great people for our team. Both groups have faced significant challenges brought on by the pandemic. 

Please take the time to thank our social workers and our human resources staff for all that they do to move us closer to our vision!

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