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SPEAK UP for Medication Safety: September 17, 2019 The First World Health Organization World Patient Safety Day

No one should be harmed while seeking care. And yet, every day, too many people in the world suffer avoidable harm or are put at risk of injury while receiving healthcare. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):  

  • As many as 1 in 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care, contributing to at least 2.6 million deaths around the world annually.

  • The occurrence of adverse events due to unsafe care is one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability across the world.

  • 15% of hospital expenses can be attributed to treating patient safety failures in the 36 global OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries (including the US).

  • Unsafe medication practices and medication errors harm millions of patients and cost $42 billion globally every year.

Recognizing patient safety as a global health priority, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Member States established September 17 as World Patient Safety Day. Through this global campaign WHO urges patients, healthcare workers, policymakers, academics, researchers, professional networks, and the healthcare industry to “Speak up for patient safety!” to make healthcare safer for patients. To spotlight patient safety and to increase awareness and engagement, the WHO will officially launch the first World Patient Safety Day by lighting up a prominent landmark in the city of Geneva, the Jet d’Eau fountain, in orange at sunset on September 17

Other cities around the world will join WHO by lighting up monuments in orange, holding key patient safety conferences, and carrying out other planned patient safety events on September 17 using the WHO’s posters and campaign materials. To cite a few examples: 

  • In Canada, various safety organizations have partnered to host a live screening of To Err is Human, followed by a panel discussion and a networking event of senior healthcare leaders.

  • In the US, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) will host a social media campaign about speaking up for patient safety and air a podcast of the National Steering Committee for Patient Safety panel discussion about progress in patient safety, challenges that remain, and areas of ongoing focus. The Zakim Bridge in Boston will also be lit in orange (September 18) in honor of World Patient Safety Day.

  • In Ghana, the Health Service is holding a National Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality Conference (PSHQC) to contribute to the global effort in achieving quality universal health coverage by 2030.

  • In England, Loughborough University will hold presentations about how the National Health Service (NHS) has improved ‘patient safety alerts’ to reduce the risk of incidents leading to harm, followed by a networking event.

  • In Scotland, several agencies have partnered to hold a social media campaign with a theme of ‘Why does safety matter to you?’ to raise awareness of World Patient Safety Day and to highlight some of the key achievements and learning from more than 10 years of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme.

  • In Sudan, staff from the Fedail Hospital in Khartoum will conduct on-the-job training for staff members in medication safety, hold panel discussions with the hospital’s senior providers, and host a social media campaign and several radio and TV shows on patient safety related topics and stories.

  • In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan, along with the WHO Afghanistan Country Office, will participate in a National Patient Safety Conference covering important patient safety topics, including medication safety, global patient safety, and root cause analysis of medical errors.

  • In India, the Indian Alliance of Patient Groups, International Institute of Health Management Research, and the National Thalassemia Welfare Society will celebrate the first World Patient Safety Day with a workshop on patient safety.

  • In Singapore, the Health Services staff will host an event highlighting the importance and role of patient safety research for nurses.

Embracing this year’s theme of “Speak up for patient safety,” ISMP encourages all US healthcare organizations and practitioners to support the WHO’s World Patient Safety Day by encouraging patients to speak up about medication safety during their hospitalization. To assist with this effort, ISMP has provided 10 Medication Safety Tips for Hospitalized Patients, which can be used as a handout for hospitalized patients. Each of these 10 tips should also be embedded in patient education materials (e.g., patient admission materials, intranet educational offerings while hospitalized) and reinforced by healthcare professionals who prescribe, dispense, and administer medications, as well as during review of the patients’ home medications upon admission and discharge. You, too, can improve global patient safety by encouraging patients to be actively involved in their own care, to ask questions, and to work with their healthcare providers to ensure patient safety. Healthcare providers should also encourage patients to have an advocate or caregiver accompany them to help with understanding and adherence to the prescribed plan of care. Safe healthcare starts with good communication, and we all have a responsibility to promote patients’, advocates’, and caregivers’ voices.