The Quality-Cost Connection: Develop a patient safety management system

How to tackle planning and implementation

Protection of patient safety is an important factor in the decision-making process at all levels in a health care organization. A safe environment for patients is not just a legal or moral obligation; it also makes good business sense. Reducing patient incidents means lower costs and improvements in customer satisfaction. Significant adverse events can damage the hospital’s reputation and result in loss of confidence among physicians, staff, and community members. Patient safety management (PSM) must be addressed in a proactive but flexible manner. Only a carefully designed and properly implemented management approach can provide the necessary measure of confidence that patient safety goals are met and performance objectives achieved. An effective patient safety program can ensure that risks are well managed through timely identification of clinical, financial, and resource improvement opportunities.

This is the second of a three-part series on the essential PSM elements. Last month, the important components of a patient safety policy were described. This month, the assessment tool covers the next two phases of PSM: planning/commitment, and implementation/operation.

The planning phase covers the identification of key patient safety impacts associated with patient care activities and operations, compliance with regulatory and accreditation requirements, commitments in the form of objectives (e.g., goals), targets (e.g., timelines, specific reductions), and definition of initiatives to achieve the specified objectives and targets. Implementation and operation includes the definition and communication of roles and responsibilities, including authority and accountability. Everyone is trained in how to identify risk-prone situations and to prevent and respond to adverse events.

Implementation/operation includes the definition and communication of roles and responsibilities, including authority and accountability.

Everyone is trained in how to identify risk-prone situations and to prevent and respond to adverse events and hazardous situations.

Two series of questions are found in the self-assessment tool. The first set can be used to rate your PSM planning and commitment and the second set covers implementation and operation. Rate your organization by considering the examples provided for each score. Score 3 represents the "ideal" endpoint in which the element appears to be completely fulfilled. Add your organization’s score to the space provided beneath each element.

In next month’s column, the fourth PSM phase — measuring, checking, and corrective action and leadership review — is described. Another self-assessment tool is provided along with suggestions on how to improve all the phases of your organization’s PSM system.