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Why Your Safety as A Patient Comes First

Healthcare is a succour for many. People visit hospitals and clinics to get better. But imagine seeking for a cure to an illness and getting more than what you bargained for.

The adverse events leading to patient harm is one of the top 10 causes of death and disability in the world. Patient safety has become a recurring global health problem. Among the 421 million annual hospitalizations that take place around the world, 42.7million adverse events occur in patients during their hospitalization. Approximately two-thirds of all these adverse events are estimated to occur in low and middle income countries.

The issue of patient safety is relatively new in global healthcare issues. It cuts across tiers of the healthcare structure from primary care to surgery and hospitalization. The causes of adverse events of harm to patients have shown to be similar all across the world as with their solutions.

The major threats to patient safety are medication errors, healthcare affected infections and incidents related to surgical procedures. The underlying factors to these causes include: communication gap between patients and caregivers, understaffed facilities, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, lack of safety culture and overcrowding. These factors and more increase the chances of harm inflicted on patients seeking medical attention.

The consequences of patient harm are dire. It may result in death or permanent disability with devastating effects on affected patients and their family. It could also incur financial loss and lack of trust in the healthcare system. Each year, almost 1% of global expenditure on health is spent in dealing with medication errors.

In recent years, efforts have been underway to tackle this healthcare challenge. Global health authorities in collaboration with countries and international partners have propelled the advancement in patient safety.

The focus of the World Health Organization's Global Patient Safety Challenge has been on addressing related patient safety issues such as hand hygiene, surgery related risks and avoidable harm related to medications.

However, patient safety is not only the concern of those in healthcare. Stakeholders, policy makers and the government should also be involved. Non medical professionals are not also excluded. Hospital management, architects, technical staff and others involved in the delivery of healthcare and management of facilities also play a part.

A patient can help to  increase his/her safety. It is always important to communicate with the attending medical personnel. Full knowledge of symptoms and previous medications provides a more detailed view of diagnosis and treatment. Maintaining proper hand hygiene also reduces the risk of contacting hospital-acquired infections.

As a patient, it is fine to ask questions during a consultation, when hospitalized or before a surgical procedure. Any medical personnel would be willing to make clarifications when you are unsure or confused.

Creating  safe care for patients may seem daunting as healthcare delivery is a complex process. But the integration of all key players in the healthcare system is essential in making that possible.

Written for Hellocare by Adefola Toye