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Washington Hospital Sets Sites on 2014 National Patient Safety Goals

February 18, 2014

One of Washington Hospital's top priorities is keeping patients safe. Hospital care is a complicated process. Each procedure or service can involve many steps and numerous doctors, nurses or other staff members. Although these individuals are dedicated to giving patients the best possible care and work hard to keep patient safe, errors can still happen. Sometimes, it takes just a single misstep in an entire chain of events.

To ensure patients receive the highest quality, safest care, Washington Hospital does everything possible to prevent errors. Over the years, it has launched a number of different safety improvement initiatives, including compliance with the National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) established annually by The Joint Commission. All hospitals accredited by The Joint Commission must implement the goals to maintain a safe environment and provide quality patient care.

The Joint Commission is an independent; not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000(is this valid) health care organizations and programs in the U.S. Accreditation by The Joint Commission is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality. Washington Hospital is a Joint Commission-accredited hospital.

"Although there has been a major nationwide focus on patient safety for a number of years, there are variations in quality of care and preventable errors still occur at hospitals across the country," said Barbara Eusebio, RN, the Hospital's Associate Administrator for Quality and Compliance, during a report to the Washington Hospital Healthcare System Board of Directors on Jan. 8. "At Washington Hospital, we are dedicated to providing safe patient care, and complying with the National Patient Safety Goals is one way we work to fulfill that commitment."

Proactive risk reduction

Washington Hospital has a Patient Safety Committee that leads the way in addressing patient safety issues. It is comprised of nurses, physicians and staff members from a broad cross-section of functions affecting patient care. Each year, the committee develops a proactive risk reduction strategy based on an annual assessment of potential safety risks.

"We also strive to foster a learning environment to encourage the identification and reporting of errors when they happen," added Eusebio.

Avoiding "alarm fatigue"

This year's National Patient Safety Goals address many of the most frequently reported errors in hospitals over the last year. These include medication errors, hospital acquired infections, problems with communication and diagnostic errors. Some of the goals are ongoing, having been established in prior years. Often, the goal has a measurable objective, so hospitals can monitor and track their performance over time. A new goal in 2014 concerns the safe management of clinical alarms.

"In the hospital, especially in the critical care unit, alarms from various medical devices are a common sound. Across the nation, a phenomenon called 'alarm fatigue' has occurred," explained Eusebio. "After a while, staff may stop hearing the alarms because they occur so frequently. We want to make sure at Washington Hospital these alarms function properly and are attended to quickly."

Other patient safety goals

Other initiatives to support the 2014 National Patient Safety Goals at Washington Hospital include:
* Working to eliminate errors due to patient misidentification: To insure the accuracy of patient identification, nurses and other staff use at least two ways of identifying a patient every time a medication or treatment, such as a transfusion, is provided. Typically this is done by asking the patientÕs name and date of birth.
* Improving the effectiveness of caregiver communication: The Hospital is working to improve the timely reporting of the results of critical tests and diagnostic procedures. Responsible caregivers, such as doctors or nurses, must receive the results of important tests quickly so treatment can be started as soon as possible.
* Improving the safety of medication use: Medication safety has long been a focus at Washington Hospital. The current goal addresses labeling of all medication containers, taking extra care with patients on blood thinners, and reconciling medication lists when patients leave the hospital.
* Preventing the spread of health care-associated infections: Reducing the risk of infection has been another long-time focus at Washington Hospital. Recently, it has further stepped up its efforts to reduce the incidence of C. Difficile infections, central line infections, surgical infections, and urinary tract infections related to the use of catheters.
* Identifying safety risks among at-risk populations: The Hospital is working to identify patients at risk of suicide as early as possible so safety concerns can be addressed more quickly.
* Using the universally accepted protocol to insure accuracy in surgical procedures: Washington Hospital's nurses follow proven steps to insure the right procedure is performed on the right site and the right patient.

Learn more.

To find out more about Washington Hospital's initiatives to continually improve quality and safety, visit To learn more about The Joint Commission's National Patient Safety Goals, go to and click on Standards.