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Three Tips for Observing National Healthcare Quality Week … and Beyond

October 15, 2020

As we consider and combat COVID-19 and the socioeconomic and health-status factors that can amplify its impacts, we remember that patient safety and healthcare quality are always issues of great importance for patients, families, and providers.

With National Healthcare Week upon us, now is a good time for providers and healthcare administrators to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the work still ahead of us. As a project manager of health policy work at Abt, I’ve had the opportunity to identify some best practices as well as areas in which improvement will be especially welcome. Here are three key takeaways that should inform our efforts as we approach 2021:

1 - Healthcare starts with quality.

Per the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, quality care is “doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right person, and having the best possible result.” That encompasses patient safety, but it also requires choosing treatment that makes sense given the best available evidence. It means utilizing appropriate services, and not padding or skimping. It entails respectful, responsive, individualized care, including reducing wait-times and other harmful delays. All of this must be provided equitably to all patients.

2 – Don’t be afraid to pick low-hanging fruit.

We already know from the most recent Making Healthcare Safer III Report that if we address some predictable challenges we can make meaningful quality improvements that support patient safety. These challenges include diagnostic errors, failure to rescue, preventing sepsis, avoiding infections due to multi-drug resistant organisms, steering clear of adverse drug events, and staying aware of nursing-sensitive conditions. We also know the points at which patients and providers intersect, and the ways in which those intersections create the potential for patient harms. The move to intensive care units or emergency departments, or transitioning from one care setting to anothersuch as to or from a long-term care facilitycan create the opportunity for compromised patient safety.

3- Implementation is key.

Healthcare researchincluding talking with clinicians worldwidetells us evidence-based guidance is only as good as its implementation. For example, through our work on substance-abuse prevention, including opioid misuse, we know that clinicians need help putting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain into daily practice. Working with the CDC, our quality improvement collaborative is helping healthcare systems use their electronic health records and other decisionmaking tools to safely suggest and monitor opioid prescribing procedures, turning guidance into real-world practice.

Turning guidance into practice is what National Healthcare Quality Week (#NHQW) is all about. This week, let’s reaffirm that--as we continue to better understand patients’ needs, whether managing COVID or opioid use disorder--we’ll use that knowledge to provide meaningful, impactful, quality care.

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