Elevating Patients’ Voices for Greater Healthcare Safety

With four in ten patients injured in primary and outpatient healthcare and 134 million adverse events occurring on the back of unsafe care in hospitals globally every year,1 World Patient Safety Day aims to address the avoidable challenges that will bolster patient safety across the healthcare spectrum.

Even in an era marked by incredible innovation and advancements in medical science, the reality is that within the four walls of the hospital environment, patients continue to face preventable challenges that could potentially threaten their health and well-being.

Recognising the seriousness of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its World Patient Safety Day initiative in 2005 to increase awareness of unsafe healthcare, and to drive high-level support and commitment to address patient safety issues across all parts of the world.2

Bada Pharasi, CEO of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa, adds that under the theme of “engaging patients for patient safety”, World Patient Safety Day 2023 is positioned to recognise the crucial role that patients, families and caregivers play in safety in the healthcare sector.3

“Patients are the core of all healthcare systems, and evidence shows that when patients are treated as partners in their care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction and overall health outcomes,” explains Pharasi.

Patient safety is fundamental to delivering quality and essential health services and prevents and reduces risks, errors and harm to patients. A cornerstone of this lies in continuous improvement based on learning from errors and previous adverse events that have impacted patient well-being.  

More than 10% of patients have experienced harm due to negligence during treatment, and alarmingly, this has resulted in over three million deaths globally every year.5 Even more concerning is that up to 80% of these instances are avoidable, with the most significant factors accounting for these errors being related to misdiagnosis and the prescribing and use of incorrect medications.1

“An integral part of addressing this plight is to elevate patients’ voices,” adds Pharasi. “This can be accomplished by ensuring that patients are involved in policy formulation, represented in governance structures, engaged in co-designing safety strategies, and are active partners in their own care.”3

Here, patients should enquire why the medication has been prescribed, how long the medication will take to resolve symptoms if the medication can be taken with others, and what are the potential side effects of the medication.6

Furthermore, patients should be cognisant of not taking medication prescribed to someone else, discarding medicines that have passed their expiry date, never exceeding dosage recommendations, carefully reading the patient information leaflets included with medications, and being aware that some medications may contain addictive substances.

For patient safety strategies to be successful, patients need to report instances where they have been prescribed the incorrect medication and the adverse effects it may have caused. To report these, patients can record their complaints on the Med Safety app, the SAHPRA e-reporting portal on its website, or via email or telephone.7

“As IPASA, we are committed to a healthier South Africa and a patient-centred healthcare system. We support the WHO mandate to ensure safer patient treatments and outcomes, and strive to continue informing healthcare professionals and patients about the benefits and risks of pharmaceutical products. In doing so, we believe we can make a notable difference in ensuring patient safety across all facets of the South African healthcare sector,” concludes Pharasi.  


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