Opinion: Investing in safety helps patients and families across Colorado

By Dr. Ted Clarke

Keeping patients in Colorado safe doesn’t happen by accident.

Our physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other health professionals continually need to identify opportunities to improve patient care and take part in the national discussion surrounding patient safety. Lessons from leaders and organizations that are pioneering patient safety and teaching the next generation of doctors is the most effective ammunition against harm.

Dr. Ted Clarke

Dr. Ted Clarke

According to a recent report released by the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA), a national push in 2014 to improve safety helped an estimated 2,800 hospital patients in the state avoid “patient harms” and saved nearly $15 million. The CHA program was part of a national patient safety campaign that resulted in 50,000 fewer deaths and a $12 billion savings.

To build upon these positive results, the National Patient Safety Foundation used this year’s Patient Safety Awareness Week March 8-14 to urge patients and families to be involved in health care decisions.

At COPIC, Colorado’s leading provider of medical professional liability insurance, we incentivize safe, quality care improvements and education through our insurance products and through our foundation’s grant-making process. COPIC’s emphasis on patient safety is defined through interactions with health care members across the region. Listening to their specific challenges provides tools to help us work together to come up with the best solutions and share them in safety-focused initiatives. The goal is to encourage and support individuals and organizations to make patient safety a continuous priority.

To continue the conversation beyond Patient Safety Awareness Week, here are some examples of successful Colorado patient safety initiatives:

The Telluride Patient Safety Roundtable, in its ninth year, brings together health care leaders and patient safety advocates to mentor medical residents and students. Not only does this event provide physicians and health care professionals access to the latest strategies to reduce patient harm, it also connects young physicians with ideas about the role of improving patient safety in health care. Many of the Telluride program’s alumni have gone on to lead real change at their home institutions, contributing to making care much safer for patients in Colorado and around the world.

Partnerships between the health care community and patient safety advocates help create a common goal. As an example, Patty Skolnik’s Citizens for Patient Safety works directly with health care organizations to increase engagement among patients, families and providers. Working together will help reach better outcomes, according to Skolnik. The program grew out of the Skolnik family’s heartfelt experiences following the death of their son, and led to a mission to “leave a medical profession better than he found it.”

Think About It Colorado is a public awareness program designed to spark a statewide conversation about patient safety. The purpose is to help empower patients to take more responsibility for ensuring that they receive quality care by providing tools to patients and families, and health care practitioners so they can work together for safer care. The program holds health professionals and health care facilities accountable for the quality of the care they provide and helps ensure that patients and their families are treated with compassion.

These innovative programs across Colorado highlight a collaborative approach to patient safety, where doctors, patients and their families are talking, and adding to our state’s foundation for an effective patient safety system.

Find more information about Patient Safety Week at NPSF.org.

Dr. Ted Clarke is chairman and CEO of COPIC Companies.


Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the views of the individual authors.

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