News & Events

Backus, Windham take patient safety to new level

March 4, 2014

When illness strikes and people find themselves in the hospital, they are vulnerable and scared. They look to their healthcare providers to do no harm, to heal them, and be nice to them.

While clinicians work tirelessly to provide competent and compassionate care, to err is human. The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) estimates that one in every 10 diagnoses is wrong, delayed, or missed completely. All together, these diagnostic errors may account for 40,000-80,000 deaths per year in the United States.

To highlight the importance of patient safety, the NPSF is appealing to consumers to be more active in their own healthcare during National Patient Safety Awareness Week, which is celebrated March 2-8. Whether a patient is visiting his or her physician for a routine exam or entering the hospital for a surgical procedure, the theme for the week urges patients to “Navigate Your Health…Safely.”

As healthcare organizations celebrate patient safety initiatives this week, Hartford HealthCare’s East Region is celebrating in its own way. Backus and Windham hospitals are taking time to reflect on the past year’s quality accomplishments and are organizing activities to further encourage positive patient safety habits.

“The Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) is appreciative of the leadership Backus Hospital has shown in the adoption of high reliability organization (HRO) safety habits,” said Mary Reich Cooper, MD, JD, and Chief Quality Officer at CHA. “We are grateful for President Dave Whitehead’s expertise and we have asked him to represent the State of Connecticut’s high reliability efforts on several occasions at the national level. The enthusiasm and level of commitment that we have seen

from Backus employees — and now Windham Hospital employees as they begin the HRO journey — both at CHA and at the hospitals during our site visits has been inspiring.”

Throughout the last year, Backus has developed, launched and engaged a cultural shift to become a high reliability organization (HRO). In response to a call from the CHA in 2012, all Level 3 hospitals in the state, such as Backus, have worked with Healthcare Performance Improvement (HPI), a patient safety consulting firm, to decrease the occurrence of incidents that reach the patient and result in harm, also known as Serious Safety Events or SSEs.

To the credit and dedication of staff across the organization, Backus is a leading force in HRO efforts throughout CHA’s 28 acute care hospital membership. Windham Hospital has also been a leader in the area of patient safety. Highlights of Backus and Windham hospitals safety initiatives for the year include:

  • Safety Starts with Me training: What began as a vision to empower staff to put patient safety at the forefront of every action was set into motion in April 2013. The Safety Starts with Me program rolled out, engaging every single employee and medical staff member in a four-hour training session, which focused on providing easy-to-use tools to incorporate safety behaviors into daily work. By October, the organization met its goal — nearly 1,960 employees and 165 medical staff members attended safety training — making Backus a safer place to receive care.
  • Safety Coach program: To continue the positive momentum and behaviors generated from the Safety Starts with Me training, Backus developed the Safety Coach program. On a regular basis, coaches visit units to observe practice habits, reinforce safety behaviors and communicate any vital information to staff. The coaches encourage the use of new safety tools and help correct any non-productive actions.
  • Cause Analysis Process for Serious Safety Events and Precursor Safety Events: Rapid advancements in technology and medicine have led to a complex communication environment in healthcare. Within the last year, Backus introduced a new method to analyze Serious Safety Events and Precursor Safety Events. Under this new system, individual and system failure modes are identified and classified using taxonomy, or classification tools. Using this taxonomy method, Backus is providing clinicians with one common language to categorize medical events. This translates to building even stronger patient safety initiatives across the system.
  • Daily safety huddles: Both Backus and Windham hospitals have instituted daily huddles with the goal of limiting medical errors. The huddles, held for 15 minutes each morning, include a diverse group of clinicians, administrators and others. They are designed to identify patient and employee safety issues in the past 24 hours and look ahead for the next 24 hours.

“The ultimate goal of daily huddles is to reduce preventable harm to zero,” said Dave Whitehead, East Region President, Hartford HealthCare.

In August, Windham Hospital officially partnered with Backus under the Hartford HealthCare affiliation. As the two hospitals work toward creating one culture, Safety Starts with Me training was introduced to Windham staff in late January. Safety Starts with Me is a major step in Windham’s journey to becoming a high reliability organization. Staff will learn how errors occur, the science behind them, how to prevent them, and eliminate harm.

“The message of Safety Starts with Me is that each and every staff member, whether clinical or nonclinical, is responsible for the safety of our patients,” said Joanne Rahl, RN, BSN, MS, Windham Quality Department. “The true essence of the training is that through clear and concise communication and accountability, we can reduce the incidence of preventable harm.”

Eight Windham staff members and seven physicians have been certified as Safety Starts with Me trainers. To date, 129 staff and 30 physicians have completed the

training. As with Backus, all Windham staff and physicians are required to attend a Safety Starts with Me session.

“By participating in HRO efforts and embarking on this safety journey, we have seen significant improvement,” said Beth Sullivan, RN, Regional Director of Quality. “Staff throughout the system should be commended for all their hard work.”