31 Oct 2015

Hospitals hope idea borrowed from airlines takes off

6:33 am on 31 October 2015
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Photo: Supplied

From tomorrow, most patients admitted to a public hospital will receive an airline-style patient safety card.

And all staff they meet in hospital, from doctors and nurses to cleaners, will wear a name sticker.

The measures will last for seven days and have been introduced nationwide by the Health Quality and Safety Commission in conjunction with district health boards for Patient Safety Week, which runs from all next week.

The focus of the week is 'Let's Talk', focussing on good communication with patients and their families.

The commission said regular patient experience surveys revealed scope for improvement, particularly on the need to talk to inpatients about their medication and the side-effects of the drugs.

It said this helped patients feel in control and as partners in their treatment and care.

The most recent survey, released yesterday showed 49 percent of inpatients ticked yes when asked; "Did a member of staff tell you about medication side-effects to watch for when you went home", either completely or to some extent?"

Commission chief executive Janice Wilson said that was not good enough.

"Medication's a complicated area, quite often patients are on several types of medication, so I think it's about taking more time to explain what they're for, and the side-effects that people might experience from taking them."

Other key survey findings of the survey were:

  • Did the hospital staff include your family or someone close to you in discussions about your care? (53 percent said yes this happened always or sometimes);
  • Were you involved as much as you wanted to be in decisions about your care and treatment? (68 percent said yes definitely or yes to some extent);
  • Was your condition explained to you in a way that you could understand? (72 percent said yes, either completely or to some extent);
  • When you had important questions to ask a doctor, did you get answers that you could understand? (77 percent replied yes, either always or sometimes).

Dr Wilson said there was a clear need to do better on medications, and more could be done to communicate more effectively with patients about managing their condition after discharge.

The commission has borrowed from the airline industry with this initiative where passengers have a safety card in the seat pocket in front of them.

Hospitals will have a card for inpatients: "Making Your Stay With Us Safer"

It covers eight steps towards making the hospital stay safer; including what to do to prevent falls, blood clots and infections; and about medicines.

The about medicines section advises patients:

"Talk to our doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about your medicines. Ask about possible side-effects. Keep an up-to-date list of any medicines you're taking."

Dr Wilson said the idea for the stickers came from a campaign run by a terminally ill United Kingdom doctor, Kate Granger, who noticed many clinicians who treated her did not introduce themselves.

She hoped all staff would wear them.

"It's just a hello, my name is, and it's in Maori, 'Kia ora', and in Samoan, so 'Talofa lava'. So it's really from orderlies, cleaners, clinicians as well.

"Everyone who interacts with a patient will wear them so the patient will know what their name is."