Patients to be more involved in decision-making, report finds

November 29, 2012, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

For the purpose of improving patient safety, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a new management model based on customer needs. All the actors taking part in the organizational activity in social and health care organizations play a key role in safety management - including the patient. Both in Finland and abroad, there is a clear need for the systematic improvement of patient safety. Patient safety cannot be improved by simply making new rules. On the contrary, sometimes new rules could make the work of healthcare professionals more complicated and even reduce safety. A new kind of adaptive safety management is required. This new, customer-needs-based management model is already being used at Vaasa Central Hospital.

Patient safety is not just a matter of concern for individual professionals.. Rather, it is a product of the entire organisation's actions. The new adaptive management model takes account of the networked nature of , unbroken treatment chains for patients and the well-being of healthcare personnel.

"Patient-safe management must be viewed as a common cause. In addition to harmonising rules and procedures, cooperation between actors and self-organisation must be supported. Patients should also be viewed as part of management and better use should be made of their personal expertise", says VTT Senior Scientist Elina Pietikäinen.

"Discussion mainly revolves around highly visible issues related to patient safety, such as falls. However, patient safety can also be endangered in an unnoticed, gradual manner. For example, can present a safety problem in long-term care."

A key goal is to create good preconditions that help experts identify the hazards related to their work, how their work connects to that of others, and to do their jobs flexibly and well. This requires long-term, consistent safety management and steering of organisational culture.

Patients themselves also play an important role in ensuring patient safety. For example, patients can report dangerous situations via the same system as that used by nurses. Patients should be given more information about the hazards and risks related to taking their medication, for example, and receive guidance in the safe use of medicine. It is not enough that patients know what to do. They should also understand why things are done in the way they are, and what might happen if the patient, for one reason or another, is unable to comply with treatment instructions.

Representatives of patients' associations can participate in the design of hospital practices and changes in them, contributing the perspective of the group they represent. In many cases, patients' associations have first-hand knowledge of typical risks and problems related to treatments, as well as ideas on new solutions for them. They can function as go-betweens between patients and hospitals.

Patient safety a competitive advantage

Vaasa Central Hospital is a pioneer in systematic patient safety development. At this hospital, patients and their next-of-kin have already been given greater involvement in patient safety management. Initiated by a few key persons, this has gradually spread to become an organisational force for change.

At first, systematic patient safety management emphasised the harmonisation and guidance of the actions of individuals and units, but more focus has gradually been given to the other key principles of adaptive patient safety management. For example, groups and networks for facilitating communication on matters related to patient safety have been established in Vaasa. Regular evaluations of the state of patient safety have also begun, and long-term development goals related to patient safety have been set for the organisation.

The organisation has also encouraged discussion of how personnel might flexibly account for patient safety in the conflicts they encounter in their daily work. Vaasa Central Hospital has appointed special patient safety experts and working groups, which also include representatives of patients' associations. Patients can also use the hospital's incident system to report any incidents they may encounter. The core objective is to make the patient safety perspective part of daily work, normal management and interaction with patients.

New products and services required

The safety of services will be a significant competitive advantage for social and healthcare organisations in the future, from the perspective of both employees and . Development needs related to patient safety also entail business opportunities, since there is a lack of safety management expertise in the field.

The recently completed two-year 'SafetyAsset - Patient safety as an asset in social and health care' project resulted in the development of new tools and services in support of patient safety management. For example, the project saw the birth of the Patient Safety Report online service developed by Huperman Oy, the SPro patient safety planning tool by Awanic Oy, and NHG Audit's down-to-earth operating model for training and development of quality and patient safety in healthcare organisations.

VTT has been one of the central forces in encouraging discussion on patient safety in Finland. Achievements include the HaiPro incident reporting system developed at VTT and the related procedure (currently maintained by the spin-off company Awanic), which have been widely adopted by Finnish healthcare organisations. The system has been a crucial tool in advancing the development of patient safety in Finland.

During the 'SafetyAsset - Patient safety as an asset in social and health care' project, VTT has further developed the TUKU safety culture, for evaluating the state of safety within organisations. The questionnaire is used by several operative social and healthcare units. It is hoped that the questionnaire will help to create a better overall understanding of the challenges and strengths facing patient safety management in the Finnish social and healthcare system.

The 'SafetyAsset - as an asset in social and health care' project was implemented through cooperation between VTT, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the Hospital District of Vaasa and companies that offer healthcare services and products, such as Awanic Oy, Huperman Oy and NHG Audit Oy. The project was funded by Tekes and the participants.

Explore further: Sustaining vulnerable lives

More information:

Related Stories

Sustaining vulnerable lives

April 29, 2011
Patient safety is a hot topic in the U.S., Australia and Europe. Large resources are set aside for research projects that will make life safer for patients. In Norway, the research field is still new – but researchers ...

NHS ill prepared to care for obese patients

July 26, 2011
The NHS is poorly prepared to care for obese patients, lacking dedicated equipment and adequately trained staff, among other things, reveals an analysis of patient safety incidents, published online in Postgraduate Medical ...

Hospital safety climate linked to both patient and nurse injuries: study

November 7, 2011
A safe working environment for nurses is also a safe environment for the patients in their care, according to a new study led by public health researchers at Drexel University. Researchers, led by Dr. Jennifer Taylor, an ...

New study reveals increasing nurse-to-patient ratios do not extend patient safety

February 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Hospitals are currently under pressure to control the cost of medical care, while at the same time improving patient health and reducing medical errors through appropriate nurse staffing levels. A study ...

E-health records should play bigger role in patient safety initiatives, researchers advocate

July 19, 2011
Patient safety researchers are calling for the expanded use of electronic health records (EHRs) to address the disquieting number of medical errors in the healthcare system that can lead to readmissions and even death. Their ...

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.