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BMJ. 2007 May 12; 334(7601): 974.
PMCID: PMC1867871

WHO launches list of nine solutions to improve patients' safety

The World Health Organization has developed nine “patient safety solutions” to help reduce harm during medical care. The solutions are based on interventions that have been found to improve patients' safety around the world.

Healthcare errors affect one in every 10 patients worldwide. WHO estimates that at any point in time more than 1.4 million people around the world have a hospital acquired infection and says that many of these infections can be prevented by good hand hygiene.

“Compared with other high risk industries, such as the airlines industry, less attention over the years has been given to safety in healthcare systems around the world,” said Liam Donaldson, chairman of the World Alliance for Patient Safety at WHO and England's chief medical officer.

However, he added that the safety of patients is now recognised as a priority. “These solutions address vital areas of risk to patients. Clear and succinct actions contained in the nine solutions have proved to be useful in reducing the unacceptably high numbers of medical injuries around the world,” he said.

Karen Timmons, president and chief executive officer of Joint Commission International, which had a leading part in developing the solutions, said, “The solutions will minimise the risk of harms to patients despite the complexity and lack of standardisation in modern health care.

“A critical component of their development has involved inclusion of input from patients and their families who have experienced preventable harm.” 

The solutions include:

  • • ensuring legibility of prescriptions or using preprinted orders or electronic prescriptions;
  • • providing opportunities for practitioners to ask questions during handover of patients and involving the patients and their families in this process;
  • • comparing the “home” list of all the drugs a patient is taking with the admission, transfer, or discharge order when writing medication orders and ensuring that the list is transferred to the next provider of care at transition points;
  • • prohibiting the reuse of needles at healthcare facilities and ensuring safe needle disposal practices; and
  • • making alcohol based hand rubs available at all points of care and putting reminders of hand hygiene techniques in the workplace.

“While all the solutions are important, the strategy to address the single use of injection devices and hand washing are more important to Africa,” said Tebogo Letlepe from South Africa, former president of the World Medical Association. “This is important in the context of spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa, where 18% of injections are given by unsterilised reused injection devices. Hand washing is important not only in hospitals but also in society.”

Notes

The patient safety solutions can be seen at www.jointcommissioninternational.org/24839.


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