Patient Safety Awareness Week

Patient Safety Awareness Week

Patient safety is important all of the time, but in March the National Patient Safety Foundation organizes one week to educate the public about this issue.

The idea for Patient Safety Awareness Week was conceived by the mother of a boy who died as a result of medical error. Each year there is a different safety focus during this week and 2014 will highlight diagnostic error—which means an incorrect diagnosis or a delayed or missed diagnosis. 

National Patient Safety Awareness Week“Diagnostic error is a serious issue for a number of reasons,” says Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). “First, if a patient gets a wrong diagnosis, he or she will receive treatment that is not necessary and may, in fact, be harmful. Second, if diagnosis is delayed, effective treatment is also delayed, resulting in potential harm to the patient. And finally, if a diagnosis is missed completely, it may result in the patient going without any treatment for a disease--not an optimal outcome in medicine.”

According to the NPSF, “Experts estimate that up to one in every 10 diagnoses is wrong, delayed, or missed completely and that, collectively, diagnostic errors may account for 40,000-80,000 deaths per year in the US.”

Patient safety is not limited to doctor’s offices and hospitals—it also includes care in the home setting. 

National Patient Safety Awareness Week“Medication management, infection control, falls, communication issues—they all tie in to patient safety. Responsibility for patient safety extends to every member of the health care team and, for example, to members of the Dietary and Environmental Services Departments in hospitals,” says Dr. Gandhi. “One of the key concepts in the field of patient safety is to always be on the lookout for potential safety lapses—so you can prevent errors before they happen. That’s something everyone can learn to do better.”

Who is a Patient?

Even the concept of a patient is fairly broad—including anyone receiving care for a medical condition whether in a hospital, physician’s office, urgent care settings, dialysis centers, pharmacies, long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, dentist offices, and even at home.
“Many patients with chronic illnesses conduct considerable self-care at home (for example, a patient with diabetes may need to administer medication by mouth or by injection and test their own blood sugar level daily),” says Dr. Gandhi. “Patients and families need to be familiar with safe practices, such as hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infection, correct use of medication, and when to report any side effects or changes in your health or symptoms.”

Learn More Today

To that end, patients, health care professionals and families are encouraged to learn more about patient safety during March 2-8, 2014, and what they can do to be safe when receiving care, and how they can talk to their health care providers about patient safety. 

The NPSF has created a video, Ask Me 3. (See video on this page:, to help patients navigate safe care with clear communication. 

Free webinars are also being offered during Patient Safety Awareness Week,, and require registration.

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