New Project to Improve Patient Care - Consumer Justice Foundation

New Project to Improve Patient Care

Written by Faith Anderson on August 29, 2012
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“Who Knows Better Than the Family?”

Pronovost also said that the people most likely to spot early warning signs of a problem – the patient and his or her family – are treated like passive bystanders instead of being encouraged to participate in their care. “Who knows better than the family?” asked Dr. George Bo-Linn of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s new Patient Care Program. The foundation announced on Tuesday that it is funding the new patient care project as the first step in a planned 10-year, $500 million endeavor to improve patient safety and the engagement of family members in hospitals around the United States. The Institute of Medicine has also signed on to help, partnering with the National Academy of Engineering in an effort to design innovative patient safety systems.

Medical Devices Would Communicate With One Another

An estimated tens of thousands of preventable deaths occur in U.S. hospitals every year – sometimes due to the simple failure of a doctor to discuss treatment with patients or families – and programs are being developed in response, in an effort to improve patient safety. Rather than fighting one hospital-caused harm at a time though, Pronovost’s new project will target multiple threats to ICU patients and other hospital patients simultaneously – from life-threatening blood clots to ventilator-association pneumonia – without having to rely on old-fashioned tools like paper checklists. For example, the project would link together medical devices that currently don’t communicate, like pumps that administer narcotic painkillers and devices that monitor breathing. Under Pronovost’s new patient safety measure, the pump could be made to stop automatically at the first sign of respiratory issues, which are a known side effect of narcotic medications.

Hopkins’ “Family Involvement Menu”

Other patient safety protections are far less complex, but can save lives nonetheless. For example, keeping the head of the bed elevated at least 30 degrees and maintaining good oral hygiene can help prevent the development of pneumonia, which is responsible for 36,000 annual deaths among patients on ventilators. These are things that family members can watch out for, as more family involvement is a key component of Pronovost’s project. Hopkins has already introduced a “family involvement menu” for patient care that reads, “We believe that you know the person that we are caring for far better than we do.”

Family Members Should Get Involved in Patient Care

Overall, Pronovost’s plan includes the use of a digital device that clearly shows healthcare workers and family members what daily care measure have been performed and which still need to be done. Too many patients and family members are hesitant to question doctors or nurses, says Gina Pugliese of the Premier Safety Institute, a program for hospital improvement. However, when family members participate in the care of their loved one, working together with doctors and nurses, patient care can only improve. According to Anne Marie Pettis, director of infection prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center, an electronic, automated checklist outlining what type of care the patient requires each day provides a “constant visual reminder” for family members and healthcare providers. As Pugliese says, “It’s so important they get involved.”

Posted Under: United States
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