March 4 through March 10 is National Patient Safety Awareness Week. The initiative is led by the National Patient Safety Foundation and focuses on an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. According to the Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, conducted by HealthGrades Inc., there were more than 200,000 potentially preventable deaths suffered by Medicare patients last year. This theme of this year's Patient Safety Awareness Week is "Be Aware for Safe Care." The theme highlights the importance of educating patients and helping them be engaged in the care they receive. Patient engagement is an important factor in the quality of care received and in the outcome of the course of treatment.
Patient engagement has been tied to improved results, as well as reduced expense for doctors and hospitals. A recent study in the journal Health Affairs showed that patients with the lowest engagement levels cost 8 percent more to treat in the first year and 21 percent more in the first half of the second year. Study authors suggested that engaged patients were more likely to follow the recommended course of treatment, including taking medications and following up with diagnostic tests.
It is important for patients to be aware of the benefits and risks of any course of treatment. An engaged patient is in a better position to choose the treatment that is right for his or her situation. Patient engagement can help decrease errors that occur due to lack of communication. Patients should feel free to ask questions and get all the information they need to make the right decisions about their care.
Source: Niles-Morton Grove Patch, "Illinois CyberKnife Celebrates Patient Safety Awareness Week," by Sarah Tiambeng, 5 March 2013