Wrong-site surgeries and serious falls can have significant consequences for hospital patients. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority has been targeting these issues with prevention programs, and such efforts seem to be paying off.
Wrong-site surgeries occur when a physician operates on the wrong body part. For instance, a doctor may operate on the left leg instead of the right leg. In 2007-2008, when the Authority began prevention efforts, the rate of wrong-site surgeries was 2.4 per 100,000 patients. In 2010-2011, the rate dropped to 1.4 per 100,000, a decrease of 40 percent.
“We were getting reports of wrong-site surgery on a regular basis, an average of one per week, and this seemed intractable to me and also unexplainable,” explained the Physician Director of the Pennsylvania Patient Authority.
The Authority began another initiative aimed at preventing wrong-site surgeries this past April. It involves 26 Pennsylvania medical facilities, and is funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
In another program funded by CMS, the Authority has been working to prevent harmful falls in over 80 medical facilities since 2008. The program resulted in five straight quarters of fall declines after its first two years. However, there were still over 14,000 falls reported during that period, most not resulting in injury.
Although great strides have been made in patient safety, more work in the area is still needed. Hopefully, continued efforts by the Pennsylvania Patient Authority will result in further reductions in preventable healthcare errors and improvements in outcomes for patients.
Source: NPR, “Wrong-Site Surgeries and Falls Significantly Decreased As Result Of Prevention Program,” Katie Zak, June 12, 2012.