In an executive brief created by the ECRI Institute, researchers identified the top patient safety concerns for the 2019 year. Given the importance both patients and organizations place on reliability regarding security, most of these concerns are a no-brainer.

The list was compiled to support healthcare organizations in their efforts to identify and respond to threats of patient safety. It is meant to be used as a starting point for conducting patient safety discussions and setting priorities, though it certainly isn’t intended to dictate which issues organizations should address.

The top 5 patient safety concerns for 2019 are as follows:

  1. Diagnostic Stewardship and Test Result Management Using EHRs

The increasing integration of EHRs into numerous aspects of healthcare has both its benefits and its pitfalls. One of the most concerning to patients is when diagnoses and test results are not properly communicated or followed up on due to physician over-reliance on an EHR. While it’s normal—and generally speaking, helpful—for physicians to use their EHR software to help with clinical decision support, track test results, and flag issues, the system remains only a portion of the full solution when it comes to patient care. If the information isn’t arranged in a way that both current and future clinicians can understand it, important data can get lost in translation along the way. To avoid this mistake, providers need to both fully utilize their EHRs while simultaneously ensuring that communication is clear, both between providers as well as between providers and patients.

  1. Antimicrobial Stewardship in Physician Practice and Aging Services

Simply put, patients are concerned about the over prescription of antibiotics leading to antimicrobial resistance. Given the prevalence with which antibiotics are being used to treat illnesses that they truly do not help resolve, this fear is a reasonable one. One of the industry leaders interviewed recommends the following 4 questions to determine whether an antibiotic is an appropriate treatment option:

  1. Does this patient have an infection that will respond to antibiotics?
  2. If so, is the patient on the right antibiotic dose, and route of administration?
  3. Can a more targeted antibiotic be used to treat the infection?
  4. How long should the patient receive the antibiotic?

Once the answer to those questions is established, providers can better dole out the treatment they truly need.

  1. Burnout and Its Impact on Patient Safety

Burnout is something that affects across the spectrum of healthcare providers. More alarmingly is the consistent negative relationship established between burnout and patient safety. But given the complicated root of this issue, the solution is similarly complex. Burnout is often caused by a combination of factors, including things like frustration with EHR software, time pressures, a large volume of patients, and a frustrating lack of resources. Organizations that want to effectively address burnout need to take proactive measures: listening to providers’ concerns, offer reasonable performance criteria, and fix issues at a system-wide level.

RELATED: 4 Healthcare Predictions for 2019 by HIMSS

  1. Patient Safety Concerns Involving Mobile Health

Mobile health technology is constantly evolving. And while it provides ease of access and offers patients a direct hand in monitoring their health, there are many concerns revolving around data security. Additionally, risks regarding the lack of regulation on new technologies, barriers to ensuring providers are receiving accurate data from devices, and the potential that patients are incorrectly the technology can also wreak havoc on a device or app’s usefulness. The best way to combat these risks is to identify technology that best meets an organization’s needs, and then providing effective training for both providers and patients on how to maximize the technology’s features.

  1. Reducing Discomfort With Behavioral Health

 Despite a continuous push for less stigma around the mental healthcare community, old prejudices and fears linger. Mental health, for many, is not outwardly visible. And while mental health providers are trained and accustomed to interacting with patients suffering from various mental health disorders, other healthcare professionals often lack that level of experience. As one of the industry leaders interviewed put it: “you fear what you don’t know, and fear can make you react defensively.” This fear can result in a decreased quality in patient care or even an escalation of an already tumultuous situation. Healthcare organizations can avoid this pitfall by offering training to all staff members, whether they’re designated mental healthcare providers or not. Options include things like:

  • Certified training led by internal experts or consultants
  • Community behavioral health first-aid workshops
  • Hiring additional specialists as a part of established care teams

With at least a variation of these steps in place, patients will receive the care they need, mental health issues notwithstanding.

Knowing the top concerns that patients have regarding their own care is the first step a healthcare organization can take towards addressing them within their own professional sphere. By doing so, organizations can further develop the bond between providers and patients, and ensure satisfaction on both sides.

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Laura Slade

Written by Laura Slade