5 health systems' biggest patient safety win this year 

From creating safety culture tools to collaborating with other systems, hospitals and health systems are consistently working to improve patient safety. 

Becker's asked five clinical leaders what their biggest patient safety win has been in 2022.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

David Williams, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at UnityPoint Health (Des Moines, Iowa): At UnityPoint Health we're accelerating our management system, including advancements in team huddles, to improve two-way communication between team members and leaders and be more proactive in preventing patient safety issues across our enterprise. Our new tiered RESPECT Huddles brought immediate improvements to how quickly we're communicating and closing the loop about safety risks and other information critical to operational and clinical needs. Important issues, ideas and wins from direct patient care providers are elevated through the huddle system to our system executive team for response every morning. That means a nurse can have a concern heard by our system CEO on the very day it's raised. These huddles have empowered our teams to speak up and be the experts in their day-to-day work, which has, in turn, led to higher engagement, increased morale and connection to the meaningfulness of their work. All things that ultimately ensure we're providing the highest quality care to our communities.

Hilary Babcock, MD. Vice President and Chief Quality Officer at BJC HealthCare (St. Louis): BJC HealthCare is guided by our BJC Crest Values of Compassion - Respect - Excellence - Safety - Teamwork. To support our value of safety and to fulfill our commitment to keeping patients, families, our communities and each other safe, we worked with an outside vendor to develop a validated safety culture survey tool. Development of this survey tool also supports our strategic goal of becoming a high-reliability system. 

Healthcare organizations have been challenged over the past few years with managing the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic, working through staffing challenges, and addressing the issue of increased violence against healthcare workers. We therefore recognized the importance of assessing our safety culture, but also understood that we needed to do so in a way that did not further burden our health system or staff and that also allowed us to obtain feedback that we could act on quickly. Thus, our focus in developing a safety culture survey was to keep the tool brief, reliable and actionable. We were successful in this endeavor through the development of a validated 14-question safety culture survey, which focused on psychological safety, teamwork, continuous improvement, and both patient and employee safety.

The safety culture survey was administered fall 2021, with a good response rate. The results revealed that our biggest strength is teamwork and that we have opportunities with our safe-to-speak-up culture. Several action items were implemented, including guidance to front-line leaders about specific actions they should take to promote a safe to speak up culture. The safety culture survey will be readministered this fall and the results benchmarked against last year's results in order to identify improvements and opportunities.

Leslie Jurecko, MD. Chief Safety, Quality and Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic: Our caregivers have safety wins every day when they have a questioning attitude, speak up, stop the line, and lean into our value of empathy. It is truly those small wins in the moment, across our large healthcare system that collectively create a culture of safety and highly reliable clinical care at Cleveland Clinic. At the strategic level, our biggest safety win this year has been leveraging our relationships with other large healthcare systems to solve patient safety issues together. We should never compete on safety, and the collective knowledge of all our teams coming together to improve device safety, inform quality improvement initiatives, and enhance the patient experience enables organizations to scale tested interventions quickly, protecting our patients sooner. Global healthcare has not arrived at being a highly reliable organization, there is still too much preventable harm, but working together will accelerate our journey. Our patients and caregivers deserve this collaborative spirit.

Pam Upadya, MD. Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at St. Joseph's Wayne (N.J.) Medical Center and Patient Safety Officer at St. Joseph's Health (Paterson, N.J.): Without exception, our biggest win this year is the continued commitment by our entire team at Joseph's Health to move forward a just culture that ensures balanced accountability across our health system. Utilizing the principles of a high-reliability organization, we have developed a safe environment for both patients and employees. Our people have embraced the concept of working within a just culture that has moved from placing blame to improved outcomes and system design as we celebrate all those who are steadfast in delivering quality care at the bedside. Our success in transitioning our perspectives and behaviors in patient safety reflects our strong organizational values and shared accountability by employees at all levels.

Tom Peterson, MD. Vice President and Chief Safety Officer at Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.): At Trinity Health, one of our core values is safety. This year, we have focused on the implementation of our systemwide safety program with a goal of zero harm for patients, colleagues and residents. One key initiative for patient safety included an initiative at Loyola Medicine, where we achieved an 80 percent reduction in operating room safety events. This initiative will now be implemented at other Trinity Health locations as best practice to reduce safety events and improve patient care. Achieving zero harm may seem ambitious, but we continue to gain momentum by being transparent and putting systems in place that make us exceptionally consistent, reliable and mindful about everything we do.

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