<today's guest blog for Patient Safety Awareness Week is by Paula Griswold of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors>
Our work at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors has shown the power of front-line staff, with the support of leadership in their organizations, to make healthcare safer.
Our proof was the success of an infection prevention collaborative in reducing cases of the deadly diarrheal infection C. difficile. With funding from the CDC through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Coalition operated the C. Difficile Prevention Collaborative, with 27 hospitals in the state participating. These hospitals showed a reduction of 25% in hospital acquired C. difficile infections from early 2010 through the end of 2011.
How did they make such a difference? These hospitals created multidisciplinary teams of nurses, physicians, environmental services staff, infection prevention experts, and others, who attended educational programs to learn the key preventive strategies recommended by the CDC. Even more importantly, the teams shared their own breakthroughs with each other in an “ all –teach, all-learn” process at the meetings, on coaching calls, and on a listserve.
The real critical success factor was the engagement of these front-line staff as the problem solvers for this crucial work. The teams engaged these staff in highlighting the harm from C. difficile infections, identifying the barriers that sometimes stand in the way of consistent use of the prevention strategies, and developing the approaches to overcome these barriers. In learning sessions, coaching calls, and on a listserve, the teams shared with each other the lessons they’d learned and their successful strategies.
The Coalition is currently involved in a Partnership Collaborative, which expands this successful effort and has enlisted nearly 70 skilled nursing facilities in working with hospitals to prevent C. difficile infections, through the same process of front-line engagement of multidisciplinary teams.
We’d like to thank and congratulate the hospital teams who made such impressive progress in reducing harm to patients from C. difficile infections. They have shown us all the way forward.
I am passionate about improving healthcare, to prevent harm to patients and to ensure that doctors and nurses, who entered the field to care for patients, are not devastated by their involvement in an event that instead caused harm.
What’s even more exciting is the same approach that makes healthcare safer will produce healthier patients who are happier with their care, while significantly reducing the costs of care. Hard to believe perhaps, and certainly not easy to accomplish, but true.
If we combine leadership commitment to these goals with effective engagement of front-line staff in improving processes of care, we’ll see extraordinary improvements. If we add policy and payment system changes which reward these efforts, there’ll be no limit to our achievements.