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Driving a culture of safety

As my family will attest, my focus on safety at Allscripts is embedded in everything I do. A recent experience which highlights this occurred during my trip to attend the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety annual meeting.

After landing in Philadelphia, I picked up my rental car and hit the road for Villanova’s historic campus. While in route, a late summer thunderstorm began. As the rain initially fell slowly, I turned my wipers to intermittent. Shortly after, however, the sky opened up to a downpour.

To my surprise, the windshield wipers sensed the intensifying rain and automatically increased the cadence of my wipers to keep up with the rain. I was impressed not only by the helpfulness of this feature, but more importantly by how this feature enabled me to more safely focus on the hazardous conditions around me instead of fidgeting with the controls on my dashboard.

My mind quickly turned to thoughts of how Allscripts products could be enhanced to provide similarly helpful solutions to improve patient safety and care quality.

I share this story because it dovetails nicely with one of the topics at the meeting, “Driving a Culture of Safety”.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), safety culture is the shared commitment of an organization to safety at all levels (from frontline providers to managers and executives) to consistently minimize adverse events despite carrying out intrinsically complex and hazardous work.

It is the approach healthcare organizations take to ensure the highest safety possible for its patients. Allscripts pursues this same approach using the same methodology to ensure the safety of its technology solutions for clients and patients. The process for fostering a safety culture and achieving high reliability is the same for all organizations committed to safety.

What is required to develop a positive safety culture?

To better understand safety culture, we look to leading organizations in safety like the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), The Joint Commission, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and ECRI Institute. From the work of these organizations, we know that the following traits are indicative of a positive safety culture:

  • Leadership commitment to safety
  • Organizational commitment to safety as everyone’s top priority
  • Transparency, accountability, & mutual respect
  • Communication and teamwork
  • Understanding that humans are fallible (“To Err is Human”)
  • Support for reporting safety events (Reporting Culture)
  • Willingness to learn from errors (Organizational Learning)

While leadership commitment is an important part of establishing a positive safety culture, it is not the only part. Organizations must develop all of the traits above to foster a safety culture and improve patient safety.

Although it is necessary for me as the Medical Director for the Allscripts Patient Safety Program to commit to safety and model expected behavior, it is not sufficient.

As an organization, Allscripts must commit to emulating each of the traits above. We work every day toward these aims in order to achieve our goals of high reliability and total systems safety.

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