Military News

Monday, July 27, 2015

Patient Safety Programs lead by example


by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Rosine
49th Wing Public Affairs Office


7/24/2015 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- As Claudia Enriquez heads out of her office, she double-checks to make sure she has everything she will need.

Pens. Clipboard. Checklist. One by one, she guarantees she has what she needs to make today's visit a success.

Moving into a hallway of the 49th Medical Group, she meets today's partner-in-crime -- Lt. Col. Ben Clarke, the 49th MDG chief of dental services.

Together, they set out on their mission -- Patient Safety Leadership Rounds.

"Patient Safety programs are really important to us," said Enriquez, the 49th MDG Patient Safety Program manager. "We have tremendous support from our leadership and without their support we could not be nearly as effective."

The leadership rounds are only the most recent patient safety program innovation. These rounds began in January 2015.

"We have always conducted patient safety leadership rounds," said Enriquez. "The issue was that we didn't always have good leadership visibility. Now, we have increased leadership visibility, and at the same time, we have increased our staff's knowledge and awareness, which has proven to be very effective."

This effectiveness couldn't be achieved without dedicated medical group leadership like Clarke.

"We stress patient safety," Clarke said. "This gives us a valuable chance to see things for ourselves, ask those questions and get valuable feedback."

Their most recent feedback came from a visit to 49th MDG clinical laboratory.

"This was the first time I've gotten to experience the leadership rounds," said Tech. Sgt. Chelsie Davia, the acting NCO in charge of the clinic. "I think this is a good way to get heard. I think it is great that leadership can see what we are doing so they understand a lot of our needs and challenges. We have a lot going on behind the scenes."

This active leadership role means one thing -- better patient care.

"We are here to take care of patients," said Davia. "We are always working to provide the best care we can."

But, the patient safety program's success is not only due to leadership rounds. The medical group has been patient safety compliant at a national level since 2013. The office even earned the 2013 Patient Safety and Quality Award.

Since winning this award, the patient safety office has made several innovative strides.

One stride was a simple but significant change.

When poor penmanship was making it difficult to accurately read patient information, they began printing all patient labels.

"Information was unclear," said Enriquez. "For us, getting information wrong was unacceptable. The printed labels have allowed us to improve our process -- no more incorrect patient information."

Another significant improvement utilized electronic tablets to innovate patient consent forms, which is what won us the 2013 Patient Safety and Quality Award.

Prior to this change, patient consent forms were sometimes absent or unsigned. This would cause an unnecessary complication with a patient's care.

But, updating the consent forms required a joint venture. The patient safety program office worked in conjunction with the quality office, the chief of medical staff and the systems office.

This team of experts converted the current paper consent forms into a digital format that could be used by certain tablets at the medical group. The tablets had not been utilized previously and were going to be returned.

This win/win situation allowed the medical team to take the next step in improving patient safety -- training the providers.

Utilizing the new digital forms and the tablet technology, this medical team improved their own working procedures and made them fully compliant.

"If we are doing everything right, we should be 100 percent compliant, and that wasn't happening," said Enriquez, the lone staff member of the patient safety office. "But, once we began using the electronic forms we were 100 percent compliant for the first six months. And, to this day, we are still 100 percent compliant."

The medical group has a variety of other programs in place such as the "Good Catch" program that awards staff members who catch errors before they become a problem. These Airmen even receive the Good Catch Trophy for their efforts to improve patient safety.

"Dental is the current winner (as of June 18)," said Enriquez. "As a team, they created several improvements to their patient safety processes."

While the past three years have seen several significant changes, Enriquez is confident that, with the dedication and hard work of the Airmen at the 49th MDG, patient safety will only continue to improve.

"I am not sure what is in the future for us, but we as a team are always looking for better solutions," said Enriquez. "I give our success to that team effort -- between safety, quality and our chief of medical staff as well as our leadership buy-in. I don't think any of our wonderful ideas would have flourished without our leadership."

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