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Reflections on Safety is a monthly column presenting the insights of Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, Chief Clinical and Safety Officer, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Dr. Gandhi was president and CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation prior to its merger with IHI in May 2017.


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Lessons Learned: Patient Safety Awareness Week 2015

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 16, 2015

When it comes to patient and family engagement, it's okay to start small. Just get started.


By Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS

Tejal K. Gandhi


More than 1,000 organizations across the country joined with NPSF in observing Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 8-14, 2015. They held safety fairs for staff, provided resources to their patients and the public, wrote op-eds for their local papers, created games and videos, and dressed in purple.


We also had some 2,000 people tuned in to our special webcast, Patients and Families as Partners: United in Safety, with speakers from Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics. (If you were not able to listen in, you can view the presentation slides and download the audio replay.) Our speakers gave examples of how patients and family members share their voices in important areas. They serve as “faculty,” providing insights during nursing orientation, Grand Rounds, and lunch-and-learn sessions. Family members are included in rounds on the inpatient side, and also serve on committees, contributing to everything from medication safety goals to facility redesign.


Our speakers also talked about some of the lessons they have learned, and a few things struck me as particularly notable:

  1. Support of the executive leadership is essential. As our experts noted, the chief executive officer of Children’s Mercy was a supporter from the start, and the chief operating officer has been instrumental in helping the program thrive. Without executive support, patient and family engagement programs will be difficult to sustain.

  2. It’s okay to start small. You don’t need a fully formed program to begin to make a difference. If you are preparing patient education materials, for example, ask a patient or family member if the information makes sense to them. Look to resources you already have in place, such as the patient advocate, to identify patients and family members willing to share their experiences, opinions, and ideas—even on a single issue that might be the focus of a new initiative.

  3. Partnerships pay off. In discussing the Children’s Mercy experience, our speakers noted the organization’s participation in Solutions for Patient Safety, a group of children’s hospitals that became a federally funded hospital engagement network (HEN) under the Partnership for Patients initiative. Solutions for Patient Safety has grown from 8 participating organizations to 80, and recently reported a 70% reduction in serious safety events from 2009 to 2012. While patient and family engagement is certainly just one part of that success, shared learning among the organizations is likely a big contributing factor.

The NPSF Lucian Leape Institute report Safety Is Personal: Partnering with Patients for the Safest Care (2013) calls for patient and family engagement at all levels, not just in direct clinical care, and in many of its activities, Children’s Mercy is an exemplar. NPSF will continue the focus on patient and family engagement at the 17th Annual NPSF Patient Safety Congress with a Pre-Congress session and a breakout track devoted to this topic. I hope you will join us if you are able, as we continue to be United in Safety.


Tags:  families  leadership  partnership  patients 

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