Patient Safety AwarenessHealth care organizations around the globe are observing Patient Safety Awareness Week (PSAW) from March 8-14, 2015. Initiated in 2002 by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), Patient Safety Awareness Week is a national education and awareness-building campaign for improving patient safety in hospitals and healthcare organizations. The theme for 2015 is "United in Safety".

For PSAW 2015, NPSF has teamed up with expert organizations in the field to develop and disseminate educational materials for clinicians, health systems, and patients and consumers specifically related to better understanding how patients and providers can enhance communication to increase engagement.

Patient safety is an increasingly visible and important mission for clinical laboratories. Factors that affect safety of patients in labs include specimen labeling errors, inaccurate test results, failure of better communication among healthcare professionals and usage of less quality lab equipment. Organizations that work to maintain better laboratory practices and standards include

  • The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) that supports the development and maintenance of high-quality practice standards for laboratory testing to ensure patient safety
  • The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) regulations have become the baseline for all laboratory patient safety initiatives
  • JCAHO National Patient Safety Goals – a set of standards used to evaluate and accredit healthcare organizations.

Accurate specimen identification and laboratory quality management plans, with preanalytic, analytic, and postanalytic components are important for ensuring patient safety. Labs should have the necessary facilities and high quality laboratory equipment to provide accurate, consistent and timely laboratory results.

Many lab testing errors that compromise patient safety occur in the preanalytic stage. Experts recommend strict adherence to best practices to minimize these errors:

  • Compulsory continuing education for all lab personnel to stay current with recent developments in pre-analytical error reduction
  • Overcoming mistakes in patient identification with technologies such as barcodes, radiofrequency identification, and wristbands
  • Use of winged safety blood collection sets for better patient experience
  • Adhering to standard guidelines for venous blood specimen collection to ensure the correct order of draw to minimize the carryover of tube additives, which may affect test results
  • Having written procedures which explain how to identify a patient, collect and label the specimen, and subsequently transport it and prepare it for analysis

Laboratory professionals should recognize that they have an important role to play in ensuring patient safety, both inside the laboratory and outside.