Patients visit hospitals
with the hope that they will be cured of their illnesses.
They put their full trust in the healthcare system to relieve them of their
discomfort. It is therefore the responsibility of the healthcare
system to ensure that the patients' safety is maintained, and that they don't go back with an illness that they
did not have in the first place.
‘The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm. – Florence Nightingale.’
infections are a common problem. When you sit in an outpatient department
waiting for the doctor, there is a high chance that the person next to you may
also be suffering from an infection, which you may contract. Hospitals also have several inpatients who
harbor antibiotic-resistant infections. Drug-resistant
infections are extremely difficult to treat and associated with a higher
rate of complications.
extreme importance are the blood borne infections like HIV and hepatitis B that can spread through a
needle-stick injury, unsterilized instruments or through blood transfusion, and can have a lasting effect on the patient
. This also
highlights the importance of testing donated blood adequately before it is
There are several ways in which hospitals
can protect patients and caregivers from acquiring new infections.
surgical patient is not only exposed to infections, but also can suffer from
complications due to the anesthesia and injury to other organs during the
- The simple procedure of washing hands with soap and
water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer between seeing patients can
prevent several infections
- Hospitals should take proper antiseptic precautions.
The furniture, walls and floor should be regularly sanitized with
antiseptics that the microbes are sensitive to. Instruments used for
examining and treating the patient should be well sterilized after every
- Hospital waste should be properly discarded
- Inpatients especially with drug-resistant infections
should be segregated from the others
The hospital staff should be competent to avoid preventable complications.
Likewise, pregnant women and their babies are also at high risk of preventable
complications during childbirth; steps should be taken to avoid these as well.
The hospitals should
also train their doctors and other staff to prevent any mishaps. One common cause of mishaps are the illegible
prescriptions. Many drugs have similar names, and the pharmacist may be
substituted one for the other if the prescription is not clear, resulting in
grave consequences for the patient.
should be clearly written so that there is no error by the pharmacist in
dispensing the medications.
A common complaint from
patients is that doctors do not have enough time for them. However, proper communication between the doctor and the patient is
extremely important to minimize treatment errors
. It is better to consult
doctors who have the time to see you, rather than choosing the busiest doctor
in town. Proper communication should
also be maintained between the doctor and the hospital staff so that every
staff member involved in the patient's care is aware of the patient's
Patient safety checklists can help to cover all the aspects
related to patient safety.
Research on how to avoid
errors in medical practice should also be carried out. A reporting system can
help to track safety-related issues for the patient, which should later be
discussed and steps should be taken to avoid these in the future. Technology can also help to maintain
centralized patient records.
For example, if the patient visits a skin
specialist regularly and now needs to meet a nephrologist in the same hospital,
centralized records can give an idea to the nephrologist as to the type of
treatment the patient is already receiving.
Though the onus of patient safety is
primarily on the healthcare system, patients can also participate to ensure
that they are not harmed in the hospitals:
- Patients should inform their doctor if they are on any
treatment, if they are allergic to any medications, or if they are
pregnant or breastfeeding in case of women. This will help the doctor to
plan the treatment better.
- Telling the doctor about any illness in the family can
also help him/her to reach a correct diagnosis and ensure proper
- Patients should follow the doctor's instructions
carefully to ensure maximum benefit and least complications
- Patients admitted in hospitals and their caregivers
should use an alcohol-based sanitizer on a regular basis
- Environmentally and
socially responsible procurement - (http://www.who.int)