Engaging patients and caregivers and making them more involved in their own treatment can help improve patient safety in the hospitals, reduce the incidence of medical errors and enhance overall outcomes, say experts.
To mark World Patient Safety Day, on September 17, 2023 the Consortium of Accredited Healthcare Organisations (CAHO), a non-profit organisation that represents hospitals, diagnostic facilities, quality professionals, and the Patients for Patient Safety Foundation (PFPSF) – a movement that aims to empower patients and caregivers– held an event in Bengaluru, highlighting the importance of involving patients in their own care to enhance safety.
According to statistics available with the World Health Organisation (WHO), 4 in 10 patients are harmed in primary and outpatient healthcare due to misdiagnosis and medication errors, while unsafe surgical practices cause complications in 25% of the patients.
According to the UK National Health Services, some of the most serious yet avoidable medical errors of 2021 included surgeries being performed on the wrong part of the body, foreign objects being left in body, using wrong implants and/or prostheses, incision being done on wrong part of the body etc.
Know your rights as a patient
Dr Alexander Thomas, Founder President & Patron, CAHO points out that it is important for patients to know their rights and responsibilities. “Patients have a right to voice their complaints and concerns,” said Dr Thomas, adding that setting up a Patient Advisory Council (PAC) – a body comprising patients or their caregivers– in hospitals will ensure that there is a two-way communication between patients or caregivers and healthcare providers.
“We hope that establishing a PAC will help bridge the communication gap and build trust. It will enhance patient-centred care and lead to better outcomes and reduced medical errors,” said Dr Thomas. He adds that patients also have the responsibility to provide accurate medical information, actively participate in decision-making processes, follow the agreed-upon treatment plan and respect healthcare providers.
New guidelines on ‘Enhancing patient engagement through patient advisory councils’ was officially released recently by Kris Gopalakrishna, co-founder and former vice-chairman of Infosys. A white paper on implementing Patient-Reported Experience Measures (PREMs), questionnaire-based surveys that will assess the experience of patients while receiving treatment, was also released.
Som Mittal, chairman of PSPSF, highlighted that ‘patients are customers but (they are also) much more’. He pointed out that most of them do not come by choice, they are either compelled or come due to an emergency and many do not understand the complexity of their illness or treatment and are anxious and vulnerable. Speaking to Happiest Health, he said “Every one of us has a story where a medical error has happened. We normally complain to each other and move on or change the hospital or the doctor. However, our feedback does not reach the healthcare provider.”
Information is of prime importance as a patient and that is one of our rights, said Nadira Chaturvedi, co-chairperson, PFPSF.
Members of PFPSF lists down the patients’ right as:
- Respect And Impartial Treatment
- Privacy & Confidentiality
- Safety & Consent
- Know Your Treating Team
- Understanding Your Treatment
- Seeking A Second Opinion
- Complaints Management & Billing
What is the Patient Advisory Council?
According to experts, PAC is a step towards empowering and involving patients in their own care and treatment to prevent medical errors and reduce potential harm. Through PAC, patients will be able to share their first-hand experience through which hospitals can tailor services and improve patient experience.
While setting up PAC as per the guidelines, hospitals must ensure that for each staff member who is a part of the group, there must be 2-4 patient representatives.
Dr Lallu Joseph, secretary general, CAHO, stressed on the importance of PREMs in enhancing patient engagement. “PREMs can help enhance surgical, medication safety among others. It can help identify areas for improvement and improve communication with patients and their families. It is an opportunity to elevate patients’ voices,” she said.
Speaking about the caregivers or about the patient’s responsibilities, Dr Nagendra Swamy, Patron, CAHO, said “90 % of the time, the patient is sick and he/she is unable to make decisions- it is up to the caregiver or the families. Being alert is very important. Do not tell the doctor ‘do whatever you want. I trust you’- this is the beginning of the problem. Patients and caregivers need to understand what they must undergo as part of the treatment. The patient is responsible for and must be informed of his/her care.”
Dr Swamy also said that adopting PREMs and establishing PACs will not only make patients more empowered but can also help hospitals become litigation-free and grievance-free. “You are safeguarding not only yourselves but also your staff and your patients,” he added.
Dr Vijay Agarwal, president of CAHO, reiterated that setting up PACs is a voluntary exercise. Explaining the step-by-step guide towards setting up PACs in hospitals, Dr Agarwal said that the first step is initiation of the PAC by the hospital chief or the CEO. “This is followed by mobilizing the core group, formulating the PAC composition, selection of the leadership and the hospital representatives, identifying patient and family representatives, drafting the PAC charter followed by final training and orientation.”
Experts stress on the need for patient’s engagement in creating a patient-centred healthcare model to reduce medical errors and for better outcomes. A set of guidelines for establishing Patient Advisory Councils (PACs) in hospitals across Karnataka has been launched.
(Source: Patients for Patient Safety Foundation or PFPSF)