Blog Post Updated 11/1/2023
Orginal Publish Date 6/26/2018

A Johns Hopkins study suggests medical errors are the third leading cause of deaths in the U.S.

The Journal of General Internal Medicine believes the number of preventable deaths are just over 22,000.

Regardless of which statistic you believe is more accurate, consistently executing effective patient safety remains an ongoing challenge. And although it’s embedded into the processes and procedures of all health systems, faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health characterized patient safety improvements in hospitals as “excruciatingly slow.”

But, for patient safety improvements to occur, it's essential to identify the hot spots and define potential solutions. That's the purpose of the national patient safety goals. 

What Are National Patient Safety Goals?

The Joint Commission publishes national patient safety goals to bring focus to patient safety challenges throughout the spectrum of care. These are the 2024 patient safety goals for each care area.

How Often Are National Patient Safety Goals Updated?

Each year, The Joint Commission updates the NPSG goals. And, if you compare them with past years, you’ll see many similarities, which speak to the challenges these patient safety issues create for healthcare providers.

What Are National Patient Safety Goals Based On?

The NPSG goals are regularly revised based on their impact, cost and effectiveness. In addition, regardless of the care area, you’ll see these consistent themes as you read through each publication. These include:

  • Patient identification accuracy
  • Caregiver communication
  • Medication safety
  • Clinical alarm systems
  • Infection prevention
  • Surgery verification
  • Identify patient safety risks
  • Improve healthcare equity

But, as important as these goals are as a starting point, improving patient safety requires a system wide commitment and a continuous improvement mindset. Yet the steps necessary to make these improvements are far simpler than the complexities typical of the patient care process - although they are still difficult to achieve. In addition to internal systems, medical devices and the diligence of the clinical staff you deploy today, using tactics like those described below, ranging from double checking patient and medication information to using healthcare labels to guide communications, can help to improve patient safety throughout your operation.

2023 Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals

1. Identify Patients Correctly

Patient identification mistakes can lead to errors in a variety of areas including medication administration, failure to treat a serious illness or disease, medical treatment for erroneous diagnostic lab results, procedures being performed on the wrong patient and more. That makes using two forms of identification critical to ensuring patients get the correct medication and treatments. In addition, patients often identify themselves by their middle name or a nickname instead of the name on their patient record so those two identifiers should include the patient’s full name, date of birth and/or medical identification (ID) number for every patient encounter. 

Admission Labels And Wristbands Help You Achieve Effective Patient IdentificationWristband Labels

Admission labels and wristbands are the first step in patient identification and the foundation of patient safety in hospitals. They provide positive patient identification and communicate important information to the medical staff including allergies, fall risk and other medical alerts.

2. Improve Staff CommunicationCommunication Labels

Most healthcare staffs are inundated with information from various sources. In fact, they might say it's too much information. Although there are undoubtedly protocols you need to follow, reducing the amount of communication channels can help you achieve an essential goal, get important test results to the right person in a timely manner.

Communication Labels Help Direct Effective Processes

Communication labels capture and convey important results for quick action. They simply impart information and ensure a greater understanding of processes.

3. Use Medicines SafelyAnesthesia Drug Labels

The Agency For Healthcare Research And Quality reports that nearly 5% of hospitalized patients experience an Adverse Drug Event (ADE) making them one of the most common types of inpatient errors. Further, ambulatory patients may experience ADEs at even higher rates. Medicines that are not conventionally labeled are common culprits. This includes medicines in syringes, cups and basins. If medications or other solutions remain unlabeled, they are unidentifiable which can result in errors, sometimes tragic. 

Anesthesia Drug Labels Aid Effective Medication Dispensing

Unlabeled containers that look alike, drugs names that sound alike, and illegible handwriting create medication dispensing challenges. Anesthesia drug labels help prevent confusion and misidentification. For example, printed medication names eliminate errors resulting from illegible handwriting. And for prepared medications, labels allow the medical staff to record key data points, such as drug name, strength and more, to aid in proper dispensing. In addition, anesthesia drug labels highlight medications that have been added to IVs, helping to prevent dispensing errors and overdosing.

Read more on How To Label Medications Properly

4. Use Alarms SafelyCaution Labels

The numerous alarm signals throughout patient care areas that result in noise and displayed information can create an overall desensitization to those alerts. The unfortunate outcome is it may cause the staff to miss, ignore or even disable alarm signals! In addition, other challenges include too many devices with alarms, default settings that are not at an actionable level, and alarm limits that are too narrow. But that's not all...

Alarms Can’t Be Heard If They Don’t Work

Although there are no universal solutions, but developing a systematic, coordinated approach to clinical alarm system management is a good starting point. And once the approach is defined, ensuring the alarms work is another essential piece of the puzzle. Biomedical clinical engineering labels help health systems track and communicate important safety, maintenance, calibration and inspection information to ensure that alarms sound when needed.

Read More on How To Reduce Equipment Failures and Repair Costs

5. Prevent InfectionContact Precaution LabelsWash Your Hands

A JAMA Internal Medicine research study found that although hand hygiene compliance reached more than 90% during the peak of the pandemic, in just over a year, many healthcare workers regressed to previous habits. Overall compliance dropped back to 2019 levels “averaging 50 percent across hospitals nationwide. 

It’s clear that regardless of all the data that highlights its importance, effective infection prevention programs remain an elusive goal. In fact, it takes a system wide commitment and an ongoing focus on proccesses and protocols to maintain high levels of compliance. Plus, as difficult as it is to maintain compliance, the best solutions aren't complex.

Hand Hygiene Prevents The Spread Of Infections

According to the CDC, hand hygiene is the simplest approach to preventing the spread of infections. Electronic monitors and observation tools can lead to higher levels of compliance. Plus, placing infection control signs and labels in high traffic areas inform and guide staff, patients and visitors to take appropriate precautions.

Use These 6 Steps For Effective Infection Prevention Programs

6. Surgery VerificationSurgery Checklist

General anesthesia or deep sedation is necessary for most major operations. And although these lifesaving or life-changing procedures aren't possible without it, evidence indicates that it's also what places the patient at the most risk. That's why it's essential to use multiple, complementary strategies to ensure you conduct the correct procedure on the correct person, at the correct site.

Preprocedure Verification Process

Using a preprocedure verification process ensures that all relevant documents and related information or equipment are correctly identified, labeled, and matched to the patient’s identifiers prior to the start of the procedure. This includes reviewing the procedure and site with the patient and care team to verify the accuracy. The consistent implementation of a standardized protocol is most effective in achieving safety. Checklists are an important part of standardized protocols, and when implemented consistently, are effective in achieving surgical safety.

United Ad Label

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Editors Note: This post was updated in November, 2023 to reflect the latest NPSG information from The Joint Commission.