Posted March 27, 2013.
By Donna Kusuda, Chair, Think About It Colorado
About 500,000 more Coloradans are expected to access ongoing and regular health care, many for the first time, under the Affordable Care Act. With many important changes coming online with health care in the next year, conversations have focused largely on funding and access, leaving little room for the topic of health care safety.
In the coming months, many new consumers will enter the health care system for care ranging from preventative screenings to delayed surgeries. Some people will begin a relationship with a primary care physician for the very first time. Doctors and other health care providers will likely face larger patient loads, some with lower reimbursements.
Now more than ever, safety should be the foundation of quality care.
Studies show that increased awareness of health care safety, among patients and all types of providers, reduces the cost and improves the quality of care. Information empowers individuals to make better health care decisions, take smarter actions and engage more confidently with others perceived to have all the knowledge.
However, information about health care safety is fragmented across many locations and is often hard to find. Also, many patients need some encouragement when it comes to asking questions and taking a more active role in their care. That was the conclusion of many organizations in Colorado that came together to tackle the importance issue of health care safety.
Think About It Colorado (TAIC) is a statewide coalition of dedicated and knowledgeable leaders from the patient advocacy, health care and business communities. The organization is dedicated to promoting statewide awareness of the needs and opportunities for safer health care.
TAIC also serves as the bridge across diverse health care organizations by bringing all partners together to drive improvement in safety and highlight the good work already being done in Colorado. Providers in all health care settings, particularly hospitals, have implemented initiatives that have reduced patient error and resulted in greater accountability. And while the state continues to demonstrate improvement in this critical area, more than 40,000 incidents of medical harm occur in the United States every day.
A strong, genuine partnership between health care consumers and providers can be a significant step towards better health care safety. By empowering consumers with more knowledge, it helps build trust and improve communication with their provider and enables partners to work together as a team. Team members demand accountability, which leads to better outcomes and ensures safer health care.
By raising awareness about ongoing health care safety needs and initiatives to improve health care safety, Think About It Colorado supports the move towards an improved system that:
• Provides information to patients and their families to become active participants in their own health care.
• Holds health professionals and health care facilities accountable for the quality of the care they provide.
• Improves safety by ensuring that health professionals and health care facilities share the learning from problems that occur in the course of health care.
At some point in our lives, we will all be patients. That’s why it’s important for everyone to be familiar with everyday practices that can improve health care safety.
Kusuda is a noted expert on quality improvement and patient safety. She is chairman of Think About it Colorado, a nonprofit based in Denver that provides consumers and health care providers with tools and resources for safer health care.