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30th Med Group highlights patient safety

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 30th Medical Group recently highlighted the importance of patient care by participating in the National Patient Safety Week campaign, here, Mar. 13th through 19th at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The campaign, headed by the National Patient Safety Foundation, is intended to provide a dedicated time and platform for increasing awareness about patient safety among health professionals and the public.

"Our goal is to foster a culture of patient safety and high quality care in the MDG," said Lt Col. Pedro Burton-Taylor, 30th Medical Services Support Squadron commander.

For Marsha Miller, contract Air Force patient safety program manager with the 30th Medical Group, the week provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce the topic with patients and staff.

"Our big focus for this week is to educate patients on the importance of patient safety and ways they can participate in patient safety," said Miller. "We encourage them to become more proactive in their own care by engaging with staff, asking questions, and providing feedback via patient comment cards. Some of our patients have become involved in the Patient/Family Advisory Council, which has been operating for about two years. The Council was created to provide a forum for patient questions, feedback, and a means of involving patients in process improvements."
The week's focus is not strictly on the patients however, as medical providers and staff members also have a chance to reflect on the importance and promotion of patient safety.

"We have a strong 'culture' of patient safety that is fostered by executive and Patient Safety rounds, frequent educational posters on various patient safety topics, and impromptu games and quizzes that challenge staff knowledge."

The current DoD Patient Safety Program, which is a member of the NPSF, was initially mandated by Congress back in 2001. The program is focused around a set of seven National Patient Safety Goals or guidelines to improve Patient Safety. The goals provide a framework for the program which then fleshes out to include identifying and reporting patient safety errors, fostering continuous process improvements, participating in proactive risk assessments and encouraging improved teamwork and communication. Each Air Force medical facility has a patient safety manager with access to NPSF information resources and a network of other managers from all over the globe. At the 30th MDG, Miller works in a four-person team to continuously gauge and assess safety issues and report to the executive staff.

"Risk management is a big part of patient safety. We look at processes to identify ways to streamline them and make improvements before a problem occurs," said Miller. "Every year we select a topic and conduct a proactive risk assessment. We get together with subject matter experts and dissect a process step by step, checking for things that could be failure points. Then we correct them before an error can occur."

The patient safety program however, is most effective when these internal assessments are combined with feedback from patients and families. Whether it's pointing out a simple task like moving a wall-mounted TV monitor to avoid a potential bump on the head or suggesting ways to streamline services, patient feedback can go a long way towards overall process improvement.

"We want patients to realize that all these small things that may seem insignificant can add up, and we encourage our patients to have that awareness," said Miller. "If they see something they're not sure about they can report it. We've had a lot of process improvements that have come simply from someone reporting."

For more information about patient safety, please visit the National Patient Safety Foundation website, http://www.npsf.org/