Beyond COVID: Building a Culture of Patient Safety Starts Now

Beyond COVID: Building a Culture of Patient Safety Starts Now

By Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, chief executive officer

“Most of us don’t change until we have to, and crisis is often what obliges us to do so. Crises are often resolved only through a new identity and new purpose, whether it’s that of a nation or of a single human being.”1

As I write this column, the world is still struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has altered our perception of normalcy and stretched the limits of our ability to adapt. But…adapt we have.

So now is not the time to buckle. This is the season to take the lessons we’ve learned since the beginning of this crisis and apply those to the process of evaluation and rebuilding.

Loss is not without value. Challenge is not without growth. As a society, we understand that we must operate differently. We must think differently.

This quote from writer Rebecca Solnit applies not just to individuals and nations, but to disciplines such as health information. Our healthcare ecosystem is building, adjusting, applying the lessons learned—creating or accelerating the systems needed to address the evolving needs of patients, providers, and systems.

Loss is not without value. Challenge is not without growth… We must think differently.

Moreover, we strive for a culture that embraces this evolution of thought and process. Chief among these must be the embrace of a “culture of safety” across the global healthcare enterprise. Because when we come out of this pandemic, we will be stepping into a new world—and we have an opportunity to do better.

In this issue of the Journal, we take a look at what a culture of patient safety will take. Our July issue also delves into how the COVID-19 pandemic is redefining and expanding the role of health information professionals, as detailed in “Credibility in Times of Crisis” by Dwan Thomas Flowers, MBA, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, FAHIMA, AHIMA-approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer.

As we examine the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare and its systems, we recognize the importance of continuous and comprehensive surveillance that provides real-time data to identify the onset of deteriorating conditions, to identify trends across multiple data points, and to divert adverse events. In “How Continuous Surveillance Can Change the Patient Safety Game,” Genevieve Diesing examines tools that aggregate continuous streams of data from multiple patient monitoring devices, as well as retrospective information from electronic health records (EHRs) and advanced analytics that produce a holistic picture of a patient’s condition which can reveal “subtle trends about a patient’s health early on, giving clinicians valuable lead time in cases of deleterious conditions.”

Other articles in this issue include “COVID-19 Across the Pond,” which features an interview with Roger Lim, senior policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, in the Netherlands. Lim is responsible for ensuring the contact tracing apps developed by the European Union are interoperable and comply with the strict standards of the General Data Protection Regulation.

Overcoming a pandemic does not happen immediately or easily. Similarly, building a culture of patient safety takes time. But with a concerted commitment to innovation and healthier outcomes, we will get there. x


Solnit, Rebecca. The Faraway Nearby. New York: Penguin Books, 2013, p. 152.

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