On January 2020, Patient Safety will be on the G20 agenda (amongst other five health key priorities). One would ask: What is Patient Safety doing on an economic forum like the G20? Another cynic might even add: What is Healthcare doing on the G20?
The G20 was established in the late 1990s with the objective of its members working together to achieve economic and financial stability. It is comprised of 19 countries and the European Union (EU). The G20 collectively represent more than 85 % of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and more than two- thirds of the world’s population.
Healthcare was only introduced in 2017 during the German presidency.
Why put patient safety on the G20 agenda?
Patient harm is estimated to be the 14th leading cause of the global disease burden. This is comparable to medical conditions such as tuberculosis and malaria. In both U.S. and Canada, Patient Safety Adverse Events represent the 3rd leading cause of death, preceded only by cancer and heart disease. In the U.S. alone: 440 thousand patients die annually from healthcare associated infections (HAIS). In Canada: there are more than 28 thousand deaths a year due to Patient Safety Adverse Events. In Low – Middle Income Countries (LMIC), every year 134 million adverse events take place resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually. Having said all that, up to 70 % of harm is . (OECD, 2017)
In addition to lives lost and harm inflicted, unsafe medical practice results in money loss. Nearly, 15 % of the health expenditure across Organization of Economic Cooperative Development (OECD) countries is attributed to patient safety failures each year (OECD 2017) But if we add the indirect and opportunity cost Economic & Social), the cost of harm could amount to trillions of dollars globally (OECD 2017).
According to a report by Frost & Sullivan in 2018, Patient Safety Adverse Events cost the US alone 146.1 billion dollars annually.
When you compare the cost of prevention to the cost of harm, the return on investment (ROI) becomes a “no brainer”. In a study that looked at patient safety ROI for Pressure Injuries, the cost of prevention was € 291.33 million compared to the cost of harm of € 2.59 billion (almost 1,000 times higher). (Demmarre et al 2015)
Over the past 20 years, numerous efforts were made to improve patient safety in individual G20 countries as well as globally under the World Health Organization leadership. Despite all those efforts, the level of harm to patients persists and 20-40% of health resources are being wasted (WHO). Many healthcare structural causes are responsible for the ongoing harm:
Healthcare Workforce Factors: In addition to the quality and quantity, the wellbeing and safety of health workforce are foundational to patient safety. A substantial body of research now points to link nurse staffing with patient outcomes. A business case by Needleman (2006) demonstrated cost saving from reduced complications and shorter length of stay associated with higher nurse staffing levels. This relationship is articulated clearly in the Jeddah Declaration on Patient Safety in 2019. Dall (2009) estimated the impact of increased nurse staffing on medical cost, lives saved and national productivity. Their research suggests that adding 133,000 nurses to U.S. hospitals would save 5900 lives per year, increase productivity by $1.3 billion, or about $9900 per year per additional nurse. Decrease in length of stay resulting from this additional nurse staffing would translate into medical savings of $6.1 billion and increased in productivity attributed to decreased length of stay was estimated at $231 million per year. Addressing and ensuring guidelines that are consistent with research findings for nursing staffing in acute settings is a viable key solution to prevent medical errors, improve patient safety and decrease cost of healthcare delivery.
Healthcare Education Causes: Even though healthcare is provided by multi-disciplinary teams, healthcare education (undergraduate – postgraduate) continues to be conducted in separate settings. This siloed approach results in many of the communication failures / safety failures that are experienced on a regular basis. According to Joint Commission communication failures were the leading root cause of the sentinel events reported to the Joint Commission from 1995 to 2004. Healthcare education requires a serious reevaluation of its current curricula and practices. Furthermore, the lack of patient safety components to the medical and allied health sciences curriculum does a disservice to have safe medical practices imbedded within the day-to-day implementation of the healthcare workforce.
Patient – Provider Information Asymmetry: The information and communication gap between the healthcare providers and their patients has caused ongoing harm. With the information abundance, patients turned to the internet as a source of guidance, regardless of its accuracy, which is minimally provided by Healthcare teams. Healthcare providers need to be the trusted guidance for information and the empowering force for patients to make informed decisions. Unempowered patients may result in lack of transparence and noncompliance to the care plans that contribute patient harm. Major movement for patient empowerment and community engagement is warranted. In addition, engaging patients can reduce the burden of harm by about 15%, saving billions of dollars each year. (WHO)
Poor Safety Culture: The Hospital Survey on patient safety culture has been implemented in many countries to gain insight on the employees’ perception of the hospital patient safety culture. It has been consistently found that employees perceive hospital cultures lack transparency and results in punitive consequences when adverse events are reported. ‘Shame and Blame’ culture is one of the major barriers to improving safety. It is imperative that healthcare systems adopt strategies enabling Just Culture.
Lack of consideration of Human Factors: In the healthcare sector, and since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report “To Err is Human”, have come a long way in improving our services with elimination of potential harm in mind. However, healthcare can learn much more from other industries that have improved safety through use of HFE in redesigning work process and flow to ensure they are error-proof. HFE is an important discipline that can embed resilience to healthcare systems and could, potentially, transform patient safety.
Lack of sufficient sharing and learning: The different sectors within the healthcare industry have created silos based on profession, departments, type of organization and many more subcultures and entities within a facility and at the national levels. This results in fragmented systems working in isolation, creating piece meal solutions and multi-levels of communication gaps, let alone the opportunity to share and learn in a manner that prevents harm from being repeated. Learning (from within healthcare), through Reporting & Learning Systems, and (from other industries), e.g. aviation, nuclear, oil & gas, is essential to healthcare safety innovation and transformation. Furthermore, population ageing has significant implications for patient safety as older adults are at higher risk for medical errors and the rate of adverse events due to increases in frailty, comorbidities, and incidences of chronic conditions, falls, and dementia makes providing health care more complex and increases costs. Individuals 65 years and older are at a two-fold risk for developing adverse events when compared with individuals between the ages of 16 and 44 years. (Brennan TA, Leape LL, Laird N, et al.) Nations across the G20 will face this challenge, which necessities innovate safety interventions and new approaches in health care to design a safer health care system.
When it comes to patient safety, doing more of the same will result in:
More lives will be lost
More preventable harm will take place like Healthcare Associated Infections, medication errors, Anti-microbial Resistance (AMR) …etc.
More money will be wasted (not to mention indirect cost and opportunity cost).
When a patient is harmed, the COUNTRY LOSES TWICE: The individual will be lost as a revenue generating source for society+ the individual will become a burden on the healthcare system because he or she will require more treatment.
Unless we do something different about patient safety, we would risk the sustainability of healthcare systems and the overall economies.
Our G20 proposal for patient safety
Establishing a G20 Patient Safety Network (Group) that will combine two types of expertise:
Safety experts from healthcare and other leading industries (like Aviation, Nuclear, Oil & Gas, other)
Economy and Financial Experts
This will function as a platform to prioritize and come up with innovative patient safety solutions to solve Global Challenges while highlighting the return on investment (ROI) aspects.
This multidisciplinary group of experts can work with each state that adopts the addressed Global Challenge to ensure correct implementation of proposed solution.
Investment in Patient Safety – – > sustainability of healthcare systems – – > and overall economies.
In conclusion, patient safety is a global priority that goes beyond healthcare. It is a challenge that requires the collective wisdom of the G20 and the overall global community. It is not just an issue for health ministers, but it is an important issue that requires the attention of finance ministers and heads of states. The economic cost of failing patient safety could be risking the sustainability of healthcare systems and the overall global economies.
WE NEED TO ACT NOW!