New guide helps boost patient safety

A new resource from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) gives hospitals four evidence-based strategies to engage patients and families in their care.

The field-tested strategies outlined in AHRQ’s new Guide to Patient and Family Engagement in Hospital Safety and Quality can help hospitals make care better and safer by bridging the communication gaps among patients and families and their healthcare providers.

“Many of the errors we see in healthcare stem from communication problems,” said AHRQ director Dr Carolyn Clancy. “That’s why we developed this resource, to give hospitals practical, evidence-based information to improve communication on the front lines of healthcare – and ultimately keep patients safer.”

The guide provides four evidence-based strategies that hospitals can use to implement patient- and family-centered care practices. Each strategy includes educational tools and resources for patients and families, training materials for healthcare professionals and real-world examples that show how strategies are being implemented in hospital settings.

The strategies describe how patients and families, working with hospital staff, can be advisors; promote better communication at the bedside to improve quality; participate in bedside shift reports; and plan and keep track of the tasks that need to be done before a patient is discharged from the hospital.

Research to develop the guide found that communication gaps between patients and caregivers can occur when hospitals do not address the issues that patients think are most important. Another factor is that few tools are available to give health providers insights into patients’ needs and concerns. As a result, efforts by patients, families and health providers to communicate more effectively with each other can fall short of their goal.

“We know that patients and families are eager to play a role in making healthcare safer,” said Dr Jeff Brady, associate director of AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. “This guide fills an important—and largely unmet—need and gives hospitals concrete ways to put this shared interest into action.”


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