Many healthcare professionals would agree that safety is important for quality of both patient care and clinical outcomes. Unfortunately, many healthcare systems struggle to balance the need to create a safe, inviting experience for patients and caregivers with other priorities.
While balancing safety with other priorities can be challenging, there are a few basic steps practitioners and healthcare organizations can take to keep safety at the forefront as they focus on quality care and better outcomes.
- Balance experience with efficiency
One of the best ways to help keep patient and caregiver needs at the forefront while considering and implementing efficiency gains is to adopt an evidence-based approach to design. This provides a framework for placing equal emphasis on experience (e.g., inviting environments, pleasing aesthetics, safety and comfort) and increased efficiency (e.g., minimal wait times, high room utilization and enhanced workflow).
For example, choosing an exam chair that meets the needs of the space and does not negatively impact efficiency is important. However, it is equally important to ensure the chair offers comfort and safety features that create a better experience.
- Identify the right room configurations
It is important to consider how caregivers and patients will use and interact with the clinical space. The layout and configuration of the room and the equipment it contains can impact the effectiveness and safety of any clinical space.
Making sure the equipment adequately fits into the room, while also giving thought to everything that is positioned in the space is important. Inviting environments help patients and caregivers feel comfortable and safe. Decluttered environments with equipment and supplies stored out of sight until needed help prevent tripping hazards while also enhancing workflows. Consideration given to mobility issues ensures equipment placement and adequate room space allows adequate wheelchair turnaround.
- Choose the right equipment
When choosing equipment for the clinical environment, healthcare systems should not have to choose between between safety and efficiency. The right equipment can help ensure a balanced approach that eliminates safety issues and enhances efficiency. Consider the exam chair. The ideal exam chair for a balanced approach is one that offers the functionality of a clinical device while offering the comfort design elements of a chair.
Adjustable-height exam chairs reduce the risk of distress and injury to patients including those who may have difficulty accessing fixed-height exam tables, are elderly, disabled, obese or pregnant. Exam chairs with a seat height of 15.5″ allow patients to transfer onto and off of the chair with little or no assistance from caregivers, reducing the risk of caregiver injury caused by assisting or lifting the patients.
- Invest in technology
There is technology available on the market today designed to help identify and reduce safety issues and hazards in clinical environments. For instance, real-time locating system (RTLS) technology, which has been providing value in acute care for decades, has more recently helped healthcare organizations improve the experience in ambulatory care facilities.
RTLS makes capturing accurate workflow data possible, communicating in-the-moment patient and staff locations, wait times and staff interactions, as well as providing a vast amount of retrospective detail. This technology also can be used to identify who and which equipment may have been exposed to an otherwise-identified contagion and for how long.
RTLS technology can further reduce safety issues and hazards in the clinical environment with nurse call automation and hand hygiene monitoring. Nurse call automation allows the provider to request help and give their exact location at the push of a button so assistance can be sent quickly. Health systems can also combat hospital-acquired infections by measuring and documenting hand hygiene compliance with RTLS.
- Offer appropriate training
Access to appropriate and ongoing training is a large part of creating a safe environment for patients and caregivers. This includes general safety training, as well as training on how to interact with and assist patients with mobility issues. Training staff on the proper way to use equipment and technology in the room is important, especially if the equipment and technology can help reduce safety issues when used properly. Having an adjustable exam chair in the room is great, but it doesn’t help if caregivers are not properly trained on how to use it. Be sure to work with your equipment manufacturer for training tools and available resources.
Following these five steps will help healthcare professionals keep patient and caregiver safety top-of-mind as priorities shift and demands change.