Patient Safety - "The Focal Point of Patient-Centered Care"

Patient safety

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Patient safety is the hot topic of the day. Patient safety routinely accompanies the introduction of new technologies, medications, interventions, treatments and equipment and rightly so. Patient safety is the foundation of the medical and healthcare communities’ guiding principal “do no harm.” Patient safety is the focal point of “patient-centered care.”

And yet, thousands of patients are injured in some way every day due to errors in communication or technology. Why?

In addition to the fact that health care providers at every level are human, complete with our inherent fallibility, I believe the rush to ensure appropriate levels of safety are built into our tools, systems and processes, too often, omit the patient along the way.

Medicine’s focus on the broken part, disease or chronic condition can result in a “medicine vs. the problem” perspective often leaving the patient feeling like the second-string player on the bench forgotten by the coach.

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If the more recent plethora of studies on “patient engagement” and tools to assist with same are any indication, then I am hopeful for a reduction in errors leading to patient injury. However, as I noticed just today, there is a growing market in patient engagement “technologies” and I fear the technology side of that coin may get more attention.

What about an approach that has the provider actually speaking with and listening to the patient? While this may sound simple, it is not easy to do effectively and efficiently.

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First, it must start at the beginning of any clinician’s medical education and training. It must be taught, demonstrated, practiced and evaluated with the same weight given to other clinical skills.  It includes learning to ask better questions and perhaps even more importantly, using “active listening” skills to extract more precise and comprehensive information from the patient.

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This is important not only at the start of the provider-patient relationship, but also following post-visit or procedure instructions for self-care, medications, and follow-up reporting by the patient. The provider has the responsibility to ensure understanding so the patient becomes a contributing member of the care team.

I believe improved provider-patient communication, understanding and trust will lead to better outcomes and fewer patient injuries and deaths.

James Benson, Chief Communications Officer

James Benson is a career public relations executive with over 38 years’ experience communicating with diverse audiences in a wide variety of venues. A retired Air Force officer, he spent the latter half of his Air Force career as a public affairs officer enjoying a series of one-of-a-kind positions with equally unique communication challenges. From arranging press conferences, to producing news and training videos, to explaining research, development and contracting issues to the media, he enjoyed tuning in to each audience to ensure the message was received and understood. As the marketing director of a mid-sized hospital, Mr. Benson directed the advertising and promotion of membership and referral programs and community health fairs, conducted outreach efforts to rural health care clinics and community education programs, created a trade show display and produced and hosted a radio health program. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Benson served as a senior public affairs executive responding to media requests, preparing senior officials and subject matter experts for media interviews, hosting a magazine-style television program with benefit information for Veterans and providing emcee support for numerous department and public ceremonies and special events. As an adjunct professor, Mr. Benson has taught classes in communications for the past 10 years. Currently, Mr. Benson is providing strategic communications, media relations and marketing support to B & G Educational Innovations, LLC, makers of ReaLifeSim clinical simulation training products