Patient safety first

New initiative aims to help patients become more involved in their care

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A new online "toolkit" designed to enhance patient safety is now just a click away.

Developed by the Manitoba Institute of Patient Safety (MIPS), the online resource is a guide for consumers who want to become more involved in their care or learn about patient safety issues.

Dawn White, a consultant at MIPS, says the online resource meets an important need in the community. Everyone has a role to play in the safety of patients, including patients themselves.

While some Manitobans have no difficulty speaking up for themselves, she says others are unsure of how to find information or approach certain issues.

"We get calls from the public with questions about their health plan, wondering if they can seek a second opinion, and how to choose a patient advocate," says White.

In addition to answering these questions, the "SAFE toolkit" also addresses issues such as how to talk with your doctor, how to work with your pharmacist, what to do when harm happens, preparing for surgery or a stay in hospital, and preventing falls. It also includes information on patient safety contacts and how to communicate patient safety concerns.

The toolkit is the latest in a series of initiatives MIPS has launched since it was established by the province in 2004 with a mandate to "promote patient safety for Manitobans as part of quality health care."

The "SAFE toolkit" can be used by individuals or by groups. Among other things, it contains a Leader's Guide that provides a description of how to organize and conduct information sessions on the patient safety topics.

MIPS has also worked with Regional Health Authorities of Manitoba, educators and regulators in the health-care professions on another project designed to help promote patient safety - the creation of a teaching tool to help health-care professionals better communicate with patients.

This kit contains two training scenarios, role playing characters and a guide to engaging health-care professionals in enhancing interprofessional communications skills.

Learners role play characters based on specific patient stories. The stories are based on real patient safety situations and events. This gives learners a chance to practice in a safe environment under the guidance of a leader.

Cathy Rippin-Sisler, Regional Director of Clinical Education and Continuing Professional Development for the Winnipeg Health Region, says it can be challenging to clearly communicate among all members of a health-care team in the hectic atmosphere of a hospital unit or emergency ward. This includes speaking with patients and their families.

"Our goal is to show staff how effective interprofessional communication can reduce adverse events for patients," says Rippin-Sisler. "Through the use of a simulation exercise, we want staff to reflect on the everyday challenges they encounter that cause competing demands for their attention."

The professional kit is available for use by health regions, and health-care associations, as well as faculties at universities and colleges that train future health-care professionals. The materials in this kit are based on the safety competencies recommended by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, interprofessional principles and competencies recommended by the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative, and required organizational practices of Accreditation Canada.

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