For about two decades, the U.S. healthcare system was making strides in improving patient safety, as demonstrated by the reduction of healthcare-associated infections and other complications of care. Though there was still room for improvement, the trends were certainly in the right direction. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, however, many indicators make it clear that healthcare safety has declined. The public health emergency has put enormous stress on the health care system and disrupted many normal activities in hospitals and other facilities. Unfortunately, these stressors have caused safety problems for both patients and staff.
The fact that the pandemic degraded patient safety so quickly and severely suggests that our healthcare system lacks a sufficiently resilient safety culture and infrastructure. The authors of this article in the New England Journal of Medicine believe the pandemic and the breakdown it has caused present an opportunity and an obligation to reevaluate healthcare safety with an eye toward building a more resilient health care delivery system, capable not only of achieving safer routine care but also of maintaining high safety levels in times of crisis.
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