News & Events: Member Articles

How Safe Are You? Health-care Initiative For Patient Safety
By Lachman Chablini, MD

The medical profession continuously strives to provide better health care for their patients. In spite of our efforts we see errors happen. When they do we search for the reasons which we then very diligently analyze and study in order to find a solution to the problem and identify error prone areas. As a physician, as Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Past Chief of Medical Staff at two different hospitals in the Toledo area and as a Past President of the Academy of Medicine, I have been very closely involved in the process of performance improvement and delivery of quality care to our patients.

The performance improvement process is to assess, measure and improve the quality of care to the people we serve. It is an ongoing process in which we look at high risk, high volume, problem prone areas, new procedures and products. We not only assess patient care but also protect their rights. This ongoing process of the overseeing of quality of care delivery begins from the time a patient enters the hospital to his or her discharge and culminates in post discharge outcome follow up. These processes and procedures are almost invisible to the patient and their families and always protect the doctor/patient relationships and confidentiality.

The much publicized Institute of Medicine report on medical errors published five years ago brought to light many of patient safety issues. We have come a long way in correcting many of the systems problems but much still needs to be accomplished. Overall technological improvements are being used more in medicine and as expensive as they are, they are worth every penny when it comes to saving lives.

The electronic medical records, computerized physician order entries and bar coded patient identification systems are showing a great promise in reducing medication errors. The laboratories in the United States perform some 7 billion blood and other tests creating a high volume and therefore high probability of mix ups. The safe guards of patient identification and bar coded ID systems with minimal to no manual transcribing have almost eliminated error potential.

This culture consciousness of patient safety now pervades through the entire framework of the hospitals with which I am affiliated. The Boards have declared patients safety as one of the prime objectives with defined executive responsibility. The Infection Control Committees pay attention to broad range of processes including attention to medical devices, the physical environment and hospital acquired infections. One of the biggest changes has been the error reporting without fear of punitive action. This helps personnel to act on correcting errors or potential errors for the benefit of patients. Another very encouraging element is rewarding quality. Hospitals recognize the outstanding care-givers. The satisfied happy workforce translates into good patient care. Even our Medicare System is planning on rewarding those hospitals that meet or exceed the quality goals. This will be a great incentive for delivery of safe quality patient care.

The best safety feature of all is the human resource factor. Physicians and other health care providers awareness of providing the best health care in a secure safe environment is the key to the quality of medical care in the USA.

Lachman Chablini, MD
Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County