Updated: Jul 15
March 14-21 Is Patient Safety Awareness Week. Patient safety is the absence of preventable harm to a patient during the process of health care, and a reduction of risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum; it is a vital component of quality healthcare provision. Improving patient safety creates improvements in patient care experience, the quality of care delivery, and cost-efficiency in care, enabling improved outcomes for patients, healthcare professionals, and entire healthcare systems.
Some estimates place preventable harm in healthcare as a leading cause of death in the United States. As such, improving patient safety is always a priority for healthcare organizations and workers. Yet, the scale of improvement has been limited and inconsistent, with some organizations succeeding more than others.
Healthcare benefits from a dedicated workforce, but the systems and conditions that support safe care practice can fall short. When preventable harm occurs, a multitude of organizational factors often contributed to the outcome, many outside the control of any one person. Thus, a holistic approach to solving the issue of preventable harm is necessary to curtail the problem.
Improving Patient Safety
There are several ways to improve patient safety and reduce preventable harm. Some broad solutions include improved communication between doctors, nurses, and all staff involved in a patient’s care regimen. Another is empowering patients: by fully engaging patients and their stakeholders during hospital care, and systematically seeking the patient’s voice in identifying harms, healthcare professionals can reduce the likelihood of adverse events arising due to a patient’s unique condition. Transparency in accountability for harm and correction of the principal causes are essential in this goal.
Technology can play a part in improving patient safety as well; for example, the adoption of Electronic Medical Records has led to improved communication between healthcare professionals, improving the accuracy of diagnoses and reducing medication errors.
Patient Handling & Preventable Harm
Patient handling is the process of lifting and moving immobile patients from one surface to another. Patient handling encompasses bed-to-wheelchair patient transfers, as well as lateral patient transfers, in which a patient is transferred from one flat surface to another (e.g. stretcher to CT bed, hospital bed, operating table, etc.) Repositioning of immobile patients also falls under the patient handling umbrella. These are processes that are performed countless times each day at a healthcare facility.
Unfortunately, due to the technology and methods in use today, patient handling is a significant source of preventable harm to patients. The current technology, such as hoyer lifts & slings, transfer sheets, and roller boards, require multiple healthcare workers to exert substantial physical effort and operate in perfect concert with each other in order to lift and move patients safely. Due to the high labour demand of these transfer methods, the appropriate number of staff members are not always available, and transfers may end up being performed in an unsafe manner for the sake of expediency. A recent study determined that approximately 55% of patient falls in an acute care hospital occurred during transfer procedures.
Due to the difficulty of patient handling today, these crucial activities may be delayed by overexerted staff. This also leads to adverse outcomes for patients: if immobile individuals are not repositioned once every 2 hours, the risk of these patients developing bed sores increases. Bed sores are extremely serious ailments that can be disastrous to a patient’s health. If the combination of labour intensive transfer equipment and staffing shortages are impeding a healthcare facility’s ability to meet these repositioning targets, then patient handling becomes a worrisome source of preventable harm.
How Able Innovations is Improving Patient Safety
Able Innovations is making our contribution toward improving patient safety by developing innovative patient handling technology that addresses the shortcomings of current solutions.
Our first product is the DELTA Platform, an automated and intelligent lateral patient transfer device. By automating lateral transfers, the DELTA enables just one healthcare professional to perform the transfer in an effortless and contactless manner. We thus reduce the labour required in transfers, and improve the capacity of a healthcare facility to meet their patients’ transfer & handling needs without hiring more staff.
The DELTA Platform’s unique transfer method also reduces the likelihood of damage to frail skin during the transfer process. The slings and lifts in use today increase the pressure on a patient's skin due to a concentration of force, especially around the thigh and posterior regions, which can lead to contusions and other skin injuries. Our DELTA Platform exerts dramatically less pressure on transferred subjects than lifts and slings, and dramatically reduces the likelihood of harm in this manner.
Solving the Problem
The elimination of preventable harm is essential in delivering the highest quality of healthcare possible. This is by no means an easy fix: preventable harm originates from a variety of sources, and to properly address this serious issue, we will require buy-in from all stakeholders, from policymakers to frontline healthcare workers. In working towards this goal of eliminating preventable harm in healthcare, Able Innovations eagerly looks forward to playing our part with our effortless, automated, and intelligent patient transfer technology.
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Visit these links to learn more on Patient Safety:
Manca D. P. (2015). Do electronic medical records improve quality of care? Yes. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 61(10), 846–851.
James JT. A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. Journal of Patient Safety 2013 Sep;9(3):122-8. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3182948a69. PMID: 23860193.
Watson, B. J., Salmoni, A. W., & Zecevic, A. A. (2015). Falls in an acute care hospital as reported in the adverse event management system. Journal of Hospital Administration, 4(4), 84-91. doi:https://doi.org/10.5430/jha.v4n4p84
I. (2017, March). Call to Action - Preventable Health Care Harm Is a Public Health Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.ihi.org/Engage/Initiatives/National-Steering-Committee-Patient-Safety/Documents/IHI_NPSF_Call_to_Action.pdf
Mitchell PH. Defining Patient Safety and Quality Care. In: Hughes RG, editor. Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2008 Apr. Chapter 1. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2681/