The steps required to prevent medical errors and complications might sound maddeningly simple: Practice frequent hand-hygiene to stop the spread of pathogens. Perform independent double-checks of high-risk medication doses before administering them. Follow a simple checklist for insertion of central catheters to prevent infections.
If preventing injury, death and unnecessary health care costs was so straightforward, why aren’t people following these steps on a consistent basis?
A big part of the answer is “culture.” You can hand caregivers a checklist or reinforce the importance of hand-washing, but unless the workplace is willing to embrace the changes required to effectively and consistently use it, the effort will likely fail. It is when you start looking at patient safety through the lens of culture that you realize how truly challenging this work is.
We at the Center for Innovation understand—and have seen—how workplace attitudes surrounding safety can have a profound impact on outcomes of care. Safety-related attitudes, when measured with a valid, reliable tool, can predict such clinical outcomes as hospital-acquired infections and bedsores, as well as operational outcomes including nurse turnover.
Culture doesn’t change overnight, but it does respond to effective interventions, and we at the Center for Innovation are skilled at using tools both to measure culture and to improve it.