March 8 – 14 is Patient Safety Awareness Week. The purpose of the annual recognition event is to encourage everyone to advocate for continuous improvement of safety in the healthcare system.

According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, medical harm is considered the leading cause of death worldwide. An estimated 134 million adverse events and 2.6 million deaths occur each year because of unsafe care in hospitals worldwide. While this is more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, errors and medical harm are responsible for up to 400,000 deaths in the U.S.

An additional 40 percent of patients experience harm while being cared for in an ambulatory or primary care setting. In many of these cases (80 percent), harm is preventable. Harm does not always mean death. It can also be a long-term impact on a patient’s physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationship.

Working together

Because of this level of potential harm, health professionals and public health organizations are working together to improve strategies of care. This can include adhering to checklists, using medication barcoding, and revamping care transitions (the movement of a patient from one healthcare setting to another). Organizations throughout the world are looking at ways healthcare services and support systems can work together to look beyond acute care needs and find improved ways to work together. Better coordination could make it easier to transfer vital, potentially life-saving information about a person’s health from provider to provider.

Knowledge is power

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement recommends patients and their families ask three important questions to better understand their health conditions and improve communication with a healthcare provider:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

In addition to asking these questions, the PKD Foundation offers several resources to help you advocate for yourself or a loved one. Call our Hope Line, find a mentor, read the latest issue of PKD Life, and explore all of our patient education.