The Vexed Issue of Healthcare Safety

It is really shocking that, according to World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 10 patients receive harm during the treatment process and 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from infections acquired in hospitals. While there is only a 1 in 1000000 chance of a traveller being harmed while in an aircraft, there is a 1 in 300 chance of a patient being harmed during healthcare!

Unbelievable! Is it not? But that’s the gravity of the situation across the globe, and it is even worse in the healthcare systems of developing countries. Studies show that unsafe care leading to additional hospitalisation, litigation costs, and infections acquired in hospitals, lost income, disability and medical expenses have cost some countries between US $6 billion and US $29 billion a year. There is no denying the fact that we all desire a safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centred healthcare. There is growing realisation of the gravity of the situation and everybody feels the need for improvement.

Yet another grave issue is the safety of the infrastructure of the mushrooming healthcare complexes. Some of the latest incidents like the collapse of a hospital building in Mumbai should serve as an eye-opener to those who callously flout the prescribed building rules and earthquake-resistance standards while building hospital complexes. It is to be remembered that a hospital is a premise where hundreds of hapless patients are staying for a cure, and the gravity of any eventualities like fire or earthquake will have a greater magnitude than in the case of a hotel or commercial complex.

Of course, healthcare has become complex, costly and risky. A drastic improvement in healthcare is what everybody needs and wants and yet few are willing to do something about it. There is no meaning is addressing this issue on an ad hoc or piecemeal basis. In fact, it is a systemic issue and needs perfect and solid solutions – and, earlier the better.

Apparently, our healthcare system is plagued by some common but serious lapses like poor communication, unclear lines of authority of physicians, nurses, and other care providers, disconnected reporting systems within a hospital, drug names that look alike or sound alike, inadequate systems to share information about errors, to name a few.

Let’s take the case of our urban-centric, privatised healthcare system which is on a fast track of development. At the same time, it is getting complex and challenging, with the rapid rise of aging population, lifestyle disease, growth of medical tourism and health insurance sector, rapid technological advancement, shortage of healthcare staff and increased awareness about quality care, and demanding patient needs.

In this context, it is imperative for the hospitals to make a changeover from the traditional management practices to more scientific management techniques and implementation of the quality management systems. With the government organisations taking a proactive step by making hospital accreditation a mandatory criterion for empanelment to its various PSUs, the hospitals are left with no choice but to acknowledge the national accreditation standards. Though accreditation is a voluntary process, public pressure plays an important role in making hospitals adhere to basic quality.

In this issue of Safety Messenger, we have taken our best efforts to line up some enlightening articles covering various aspects of healthcare safety, including safety of hospitals, diagnostics, patient safety and medical ethics as well as safety issues relating to the booming medical tourism. We look forward to your valuable feedback and suggestions.

Happy Reading!
M.V. Thomas
Chief Editor.


Author: SubEditor

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