Partners in Safety

Patient Safety Activists Unite to Implement Global Action Plan in the United States

Editor’s note: Sue Sheridan — who has advocated for as hard, long and effectively as any one to include patients and families as leaders in patient safety — is heading up a new organization. Patients for Patient Safety US is the United States branch of a global network established by the World Health Organization WHO in 2004. Founded by Sheridan and other activists, many of whom have experienced medical error (see founders under About Us), PFPS US will  work to support implementation of the new World Health Organization (WHO) Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030. The following information is from a September 1, 2021, press release announcing the new organization.

Preventable harm in the healthcare system is an urgent public health challenge, internationally and in the United States.  Globally, more people die now from medical errors or other breakdowns in the quality and safety of healthcare services than from lack of access to them. The United States still has no public health mechanism for tracking death or injury from medical errors, although patient safety leaders have been asking for government surveillance for over 20 years.  Researchers estimate that medication errors, preventable infections, venous thromboembolism, falls in hospitals, and other preventable harms take the lives of over 400,000 Americans annually.

“As engaged patient safety advocates, we see too little progress in meeting the goals set forth 20 years ago in the U.S. Institute of Medicine’s 1999 call to action, To Err is Human, said Sheridan. “Few of its recommendations have been implemented system-wide and all of its milestone goals have been missed.  Some healthcare leaders have stepped up and we thank them,” Sheridan added, “but that’s not enough.

We still don’t have patient safety solutions embedded across healthcare after more than 20 years of piecemeal activity. The private-public partnership entrusted to take on the 3rd largest cause of preventable death has been too fractured to meet the challenge. We see no urgency now to prioritize this problem that impacts so many families like ours.”

Led by people who have experienced medical error as a patient or in our families, Patients for Patient Safety is a network of patients, family members and other advocates started by WHO to help advance global patient safety efforts. Canada and other nations have established and grown their own branches. PFPS US now follows their lead.

In 2019 the World Health Assembly established September 17th as World Patient Safety Day and passed a resolution calling on every nation to implement specific strategies shown to reduce harm and death from medical error.  In May 2021 the Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030 was adopted, outlining 7 Strategic Objectives and calling upon governments, healthcare leaders, patients and families, and other stakeholders to work together to achieve them. They are:

  1. Develop government policies to eliminate avoidable harm in health care
  2. Embed high-reliability safety systems in healthcare organizations that protect both patients and the healthcare workforce
  3. Ensure adoption of and accountability for following safe clinical processes
  4. Engage patient and family members as partners in co-producing policies and solutions
  5. Invest in health worker education and skills building that prioritize patient safety
  6. Advance continued innovation in information use, research and risk management
  7. Work together synergistically in partnership and solidarity towards reducing all preventable harm in healthcare

“PFPS US is activated to advance the Global Patient Safety Action Plan objectives in the United States, and we welcome other patients and family members, government agencies, healthcare organizations and other stakeholder organizations to join us as partners on World Patient Safety Day and going forward,” said Sheridan on behalf of all PFPS US co-founders. Other PFPS US co-founders are Margo Burrows, Steve Burrows, Lt. Col. Steven L. Coffee, Alicia Cole, Martin J. Hatlie, Carole Hemmelgarn, Soojin Jun, Armando Nahum and Beth Daley Ullem.

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Susan Carr Susan Carr is a medical editor and writer specializing in patient safety and engagement. In addition to curating the EngagingPatients blog, she produces publications for the Betsy Lehman Center in Boston and the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. Susan lives and works in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

Susan Carr has 134 post(s) at EngagingPatients.org

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