Healthcare in the US has always been troubled, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. It has always been plagued with one issue or the other. Lack of price transparency, outrageous costs, archaic laws, regular healthcare data breaches, medical identity theft, an abundance of duplicate medical records, and patient identification errors are just some of the many problems that the healthcare system faces. Some of these are interrelated – but more on that later. However, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc, providers need to reduce patient safety risks as patients start going to hospitals for availing healthcare services. This can improve healthcare outcomes as well as offset the unprecedented losses of $323 billion this year, according to AHA.
Let’s have a look at how healthcare providers can reduce these risks and provide a safe environment for patients and employees alike.
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Plan everything in advance to prevent safety incidents
This one is quite a no-brainer. As the US healthcare system is at a very critical stage (it has the highest number of cases in the world), providers need to plan everything immaculately.
Planning the important days (like resuming elective procedures) will go a long way. Hospitals also need to decide whether they want to open their facilities all at once or one phase at a time. The latter will provide insightful information as to whether changes need to be made for the remaining steps of the plan.
Making an inventory of all the required materials is another critical step. Materials like PPE still run out faster than you can restock them, so, have more in advance, if possible. Otherwise, reordering should be done well in advance, for instance, when you are down to 50% of the said material. This will help provide undisrupted services.
Enforce safety measures for everyone within facilities
Firstly, hospitals need to keep COVID-19 and regular patients separate. If these two mix up, the consequences will be catastrophic. If possible, hospitals need to dedicate an entire facility for COVID-19 patients.
Moreover, patient safety risks can be further reduced by ensuring that everyone within the premises, regardless of their status, wears PPE. Hospitals must make it mandatory by putting signboards and posters everywhere that entry will not be allowed without PPE (unless it’s provided by the caregivers themselves).
Also, in crowded areas, hospitals need to make sure that the individuals are six feet apart from each other – placing stickers or markers on the floor that indicate where patients must stand should do the trick.
Hospitals also need to ensure that touches are reduced to a bare minimum, especially in areas where incoming patients are inevitable. Keeping everything sanitized at all times is a must as well. Many solutions are contactless and hygienic – RightPatient is one of them, but more on that later.
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Ensure compliance and protect patient data
Patient safety encompasses everything that affects the welfare of patients – regardless of the factors being physical or digital. One of the biggest issues that cause patient safety risks revolves around EHRs and patient data.
The US healthcare system has always had problems with patient data – keeping it safe, maintaining data integrity, and ensuring patients are properly identified are some of the more common issues.
Healthcare data breaches are quite common, and the hackers’ target is patient data – they can sell it at high prices on the black market. This further leads to medical identity theft, among other patient safety issues. Protecting patient data is crucial not only for patients but to also ensure HIPAA compliance, the law which focuses on protecting patient data. Sadly, it is easier said than done – HIPAA is a multi-layered and complex law, and thus, can be quite cumbersome for providers to comply with.
However, hospitals and healthcare organizations can reduce administrative burdens and simplify HIPAA compliance with software. It is an effective way that not only streamlines HIPAA compliance but also lets providers conduct internal audits to address security gaps and reduce patient safety risks by protecting patient data more effectively.
Identify patients accurately and in a hygienic manner
Patient misidentification is a huge problem as well. Think of it – a misidentified individual will receive treatment based on a wrong or incomplete patient record, leading to delays in treatment, repeated tests, and even receiving the wrong treatment that can have lasting damage. Patient safety is compromised severely. This happens usually due to duplicate medical records within the EHR systems, something that creates dirty patient data as well.
Patient identification can be accurate if providers use innovative solutions like touchless biometric patient identification platforms. These use patient photos to identify them accurately right from appointment scheduling – ensuring patient data integrity and enhancing patient safety. Moreover, it helps providers avoid duplicate records, prevent medical identity theft, and improve patient care.
Darrent is a digital marketer, tech enthusiast & blogger.