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Patient Safety Awareness Week 2021 Highlights Role of Technology

Image of A graphic with the words "Patient Safety Awareness Week 2021 March 14-20. Patient Safety Awareness Week 2021 aims to highlight the role of technology in patient safety (Courtesy of the DOD’s Patient Safety Awareness Program for Medical Affairs).

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The Military Health System will once again join the annual national Patient Safety Awareness Week education campaign to bring awareness to health care safety and promote patient safety practices.

The theme for this year's campaign, March 14-20, will focus on the role technology plays in promoting patient safety across MHS.

"We focus on ensuring ready reliable care for every patient, every time, and are always seeking ways to improve our health care delivery system - establishing processes and optimizing technologies to provide products, services, educational opportunities, and training resources to health care leadership, health care professionals, staff and beneficiaries," said Heidi King, chief of the Defense Health Agency's Patient Safety Program for Medical Affairs.

This includes web-based reporting tools to record and analyze data and create alerts and advisories that are swiftly disseminated to the MHS, standardized practices across the military services, and more rapid responses to ensure the safe delivery of immunizations and monitor infection control, she added.

With patients at the heart of its mission, the Department of Defense's Patient Safety Program aims to engage, educate, and equip patient care teams to implement evidence-based safe practices across MHS, thereby eliminating preventable patient harm. It relies not only on health care professionals but also non-clinical staff, patients, and families who have an important role in promoting a culture of safety for patients and ensuring the safe delivery of health care to 9.6 million MHS beneficiaries.

"Patient engagement is key, and the relationship between providers and patients and their families leads to safer care," said King.

MHS focuses on providing ready reliable care for patients while keeping them safe from harm in each patient encounter at all military hospitals, clinics, and military medical treatment facilities around the world. Using an evidence-based systems approach to create a safer patient environment, PSP engages MHS leadership on the importance of patient safety to establish a supportive organizational culture and promote collaboration across all services by fostering trust, transparency, teamwork, and communication.

"Leaders at every level and all staff help drive high reliability forward to achieve zero preventable harm on behalf of our beneficiaries," said King. "Through leadership support, diligent practice, ongoing training and coaching, the teamwork system is an integral component of our culture."

The DOD PSP also collaborates with federal agencies, including the Agency for Health Care Research & Quality, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Food & Drug Administration. It also collaborates with non-governmental organizations to work toward a culture of safety at the military and national health care systems.

Using technology, the PSP offers health care providers tools for assessment, training, coaching, and skill-building for team-based care.

"For PSAW 2021, we are highlighting technology's role in patient safety through enterprise-wide processes, technology, and training," said King.

2021 PSAW

To highlight technology's role in patient safety, the 2021 PSAW will include a series of webinars between March 9 and April 8 about topics related to patient safety, leadership commitment, culture of safety, continuous process improvement, and patient centeredness. These will feature the recipients of the 2020 Advancement toward High Reliability in Health Care Awards, and MHS participants can register online.

Likewise, MHS MTFs will take part in PSAW by hosting local events to draw awareness about the importance of safe patient practices by engaging, educating, and equipping patient-care teams within their own organizations as part of the journey toward safe care and ending preventable patient harm.

"Previous PSAW events showcased health professionals' creativity, including process improvement fairs that displayed workplace efforts in addressing patient safety concerns and hosting contests to find all the patient safety problems lurking in a 'Room of Horrors,;" said Navy Capt. Mary Parker, PSP clinical affairs specialist.

"My favorite, though, is the Escape Room that uses puzzles to complete a patient safety mission," she said. "Because patient safety is everyone's responsibility, events like these are fantastic opportunities for junior officers and enlisted staff to work on — everyone can contribute to Patient Safety Awareness Week."

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