Patient Safety: The Cornerstone of Quality Healthcare

By Dr Zeyar Win

Living a healthy life is a fundamental necessity for everyone. Even when various conditions lead to the occurrence of diseases, systematically receiving necessary diagnoses and treatments offers numerous benefits, including recovery, prevention of the condition from worsening, and other advantages. The essential factor is patient safety in order to achieve such benefits. According to WHO, around one in every ten patients is harmed in health care, and more than three million deaths occur annually due to unsafe care. In low-to-middle-income countries, as many as 4 in 100 people die from unsafe care.
The phrase ‘First, do no harm’ is a fundamental principle in any healthcare. No one should be harmed by healthcare. However, it is known that healthcare systems in both developed and developing countries face significant challenges worldwide in preventing patient risks before they occur. Generally, these conditions are related to humanity, ethics, morality, and financial factors.
Safe healthcare is a fundamental right that should be available to all patients at all times and in all places without exception. Despite this, unsafe healthcare conditions are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, resulting in millions of patients being harmed annually.
Patient safety means “protecting a patient from unnecessary harm and minimizing the risk of adverse events related to healthcare to the lowest possible level.” In a broader healthcare system, patient safety involves establishing practices, procedures, protocols, behaviours, technologies, and processes that systematically and sustainably lower risks and reduce the occurrence of avoidable harm. That includes minimizing the likelihood of errors and mitigating harm when they occur.
Inclusive Engagement of All Stakeholders
Patients and their families across various healthcare settings play a pivotal role in enhancing patient safety. It is imperative to globally promote awareness regarding the essential involvement of healthcare professionals in this endeavour.
Healthcare providers, policymakers, patient advocacy groups, and various societal stakeholders recognize the pivotal role of patients and their families in enhancing patient safety. They emphasize the crucial need for active engagement of healthcare professionals and other concerned parties to foster effective communication, promote patient safety culture, and ensure optimal healthcare outcomes.
Patient and family involvement represents a pivotal strategy in the evolution towards a safer healthcare system. We are transitioning from a paradigm of a “healthcare system for the patient” to one where the emphasis shifts to a “health system that collaborates with the patient”.
Indeed, patients and their family members are the primary users of the healthcare system. They should be engaged in decision-making processes with fully informed consent regarding the patient’s condition. Their involvement is crucial across all levels of healthcare, including policy-making and planning stages.
Acknowledging the influence of patient safety underscores the imperative to mitigate patient risks within healthcare and enhance system efficiency. Ensuring safe service provision also plays a vital role in rebuilding community trust in the healthcare system. The healthcare landscape on a global scale is evolving within increasingly intricate environments in today’s global context. While new treatments, technologies, and care models offer novel therapeutic possibilities, they also introduce potential new risks to safe healthcare delivery.
Elevate the Voice of Patients
Within the framework of Patient Engagement for Patient Safety, collaboration among patients, families, and healthcare professionals is essential to safeguarding healthcare. Emphasizing patient partnership in healthcare enhances safety and yields substantial benefits, including heightened patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes. Through active participation in the healthcare process, patients can actively contribute to improving the safety of their own care and the overall healthcare system.
The motto “Elevate the Voice of Patients” aims to involve patients in their healthcare journey, engage them in policy formulation, ensure representation in governance structures, collaborate on safety strategy development, and recognize them as active partners, actions that are advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ensuring safety and patient-centredness, promoting trust and equity, and addressing the concerns and priorities of diverse patients’ voices require building trust and providing opportunities for the involvement of families and communities.
Patient safety encompasses systematic processes aimed at consistently and sustainably reducing potential risks to patients in medical care. It involves procedures, behaviours, and technologies within a framework that organizes activities to foster cultures and environments conducive to safety. The framework, developed by healthcare providers and those in charge, emphasizes that patients and their families can significantly reduce the risk of accidents in the medical treatment process through balanced, systematic, and informed cooperation. Therefore, this collaborative approach is conveyed to enhance the effectiveness of patient safety measures.

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