3 Ways to Improve Patient Safety in 2023

Patient safety will be a major focus in 2023.

Although U.S hospitals collectively improved on a number of patient safety measures over the past decade – particularly patient fall and injury events – much work remains to be done. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than 250,000 Americans still die each year as a result of medical errors

The Action Alliance to Advance Patient Safety officially launches in 2023, and participants will share evidence-based approaches to improving patient and healthcare worker safety. Jumpstart your hospital’s patient safety efforts with these three proven strategies:

1. Boost hand hygiene

Appropriate hand hygiene can prevent up to 50% of healthcare-associated infections, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), including central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTIs), and Methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) bacteremia (which increased 14% between 2020 and 2021). 

Despite significant efforts, healthcare providers wash or sanitize their hands, on average, only about half as often as they should. That’s why the Joint Commission stresses hand hygiene in their 2023 National Hospital Patient Safety Goals. One of the 2023 goals is “Prevent infection,” and to achieve that goal, the Joint Commission says that hospitals should “set goals for improving hand cleaning” and “use the goals to improve hand cleaning.”

A 2022 research study published in Frontiers in Public Health noted that heavy workloads, behavioral patterns, and lack of knowledge all contribute to less-than-satisfactory hand hygiene rates. Another 2022 study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology found that health care facilities that have automated hand hygiene monitoring systems and actively partner with their vendor to boost hand hygiene achieve greater improvement in hand hygiene performance. 

Encouraging patient and family involvement is another way to increase hand hygiene (and decrease infections). Explaining the importance of regular hand hygiene to patients and families, and encouraging them to ask and remind others to perform hand hygiene can boost hand hygiene rates by approximately 50%

2. Implement hourly nurse rounding 


Alarm fatigue jeopardizes patient safety. That’s why one of the Joint Commission’s 2023 Hospital Patient Safety Goals is “Use alarms safely” and hospitals are instructed to “make improvements to ensure that alarms on medical equipment are heard and responded to on time.” 

Hourly nurse rounding is one way to achieve that goal. When nursing staff check on patients at least once an hour, they can proactively prevent many alarms. A rounding nurse, for instance, will notice a nearly empty bag of IV fluids and replace it, thereby avoiding the annoying “bag empty” beeping that confuses patients and families and is frequently ignored by staff because they assume the alarm doesn’t indicate an emergency. Regular rounds also give nurses the opportunity to adjust alarm settings to patient parameters. A patient whose baseline systolic blood pressure is in the low 100s is likely not in trouble when her blood pressure drops below 115/60, and an alarm that goes off each time it does only contributes to extra noise. Appropriately adjusted alarm parameters are extremely important to protect patient health. 

Hourly rounding can also decrease at least two other significant patient safety threats: falls and pressure injuries (which can contribute to HAI development). One research study found that hourly rounding led to a 52% reduction in patient falls and a 14% decrease in skin breakdown and pressure injuries. The Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania managed to decrease hospital-acquired pressure injuries and infections by 30% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic – a time when staff were often overwhelmed by patient demand – by implementing hourly rounding because staff proactively repositioned patients and addressed patient needs. 

3. Switch to bedside shift report 


“Use medicines safely” is another 2023 Hospital Patient Safety Goal – and for good reason. Giving the wrong dose of medication (or the wrong medication) to a patient can be disastrous. Unintentional medication errors, however, still occur more often than anyone would like. Often, these errors are the result of a communication breakdown: the admitting physician mishears a drug name while taking a patient’s history and so orders the incorrect medication for a patient; the nurse or pharmacist mistakes an order for 1.0 mg of medication as 10 mg of medication. 

Such mistakes often happen as patient care responsibilities shift from one caregiver to another. In fact, an estimated 80% of serious medical errors involve miscommunication that occurs during the transfer of patients. 

Bedside shift reporting can decrease miscommunication and med errors. As suggested by the name, bedside shift reporting occurs at patients’ bedsides and involves patients and, if desired, family members. On- and off-going staff share information about the patient’s status and plan of care, and the patient and family can verify, clarify, and question plans as needed. One medical unit reported an 80% reduction in medication errors after implementation of bedside shift reporting.

Prioritizing these three activities - hand hygiene, hourly nurse rounding, and bedside shift report - will help you improve patient safety. The SwipeSense safety platform can help you achieve your 2023 patient safety goals. The platform's Electronic Hand Hygiene Monitoring provides complete transparency into hand hygiene data, while the Nursing Insights application monitors hourly rounding and bedside shift reporting. Request a demo to see how it works.