Background: Health care organizations face an imperative to ensure that care is provided to patients in the safest manner possible. In 2000 INTEGRIS Health, an Oklahoma City-based health system including ten acute care organizations, developed a patient safety framework that was built on the foundation of a culture of patient safety and began implementation in January 2001.
Importance of leadership in patient safety: The first step in establishing a culture of safety was to ensure that leadership and the entire organization understand the rationale for a focus on patient safety. The traditional blaming approach will not prevent human error; staff need to speak freely, to talk about errors that happen and those that almost happen, and to identify where mistakes are likely and where systems allow mistakes to get through. Systems and processes should make it difficult for staff to make mistakes and easy for them to do things correctly.
Experience to date: Since our efforts began, staff have helped identify multiple accidents waiting to happen. For example, an anesthesiologist, the service chief at one of our large hospitals, prepared a list of safety issues immediately after hearing a presentation to the Medical Executive Committee. Many system flaws have been identified as a result of our discussions; some of the solutions are easy and some much more complex.
Challenges: Challenges include keeping patient safety highly visible and demonstrating progress in our implementation, developing effective mechanisms for communicating safety solutions and ensuring that they are implemented in all the facilities, and figuring out how to measure success in a meaningful way.