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Ambulatory care: The next frontier in patient safety

March 16, 2017

By Jay Bhatt, D.O., and Katie Mockaitis

Hospitals have made impressive strides in improving care in the inpatient setting and are applying those lessons to outpatient care.

Funded through a contract from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) has been working with experts in ambulatory care, patient and family engagement (PFE), and care transitions to create a toolkit specific to the ambulatory care setting that will improve PFE and help patients transition to other ambulatory care providers. A growing body of evidence shows a clear association between PFE and fewer adverse events and better patient self-management.

Two sites are piloting the toolkit from March – June 2017: Vidant Health Belhaven and University of Washington’s General Internal Medicine Clinic. Joan Wynn, chief quality officer of Vidant Health is “excited to work on tools to improve communication and transitions of care from one provider to the next.” Farrah Leland with the University of Washington says, “This ambulatory care toolkit will be instrumental in enabling us to empower patients to take ownership and leadership in their care.” 

This project aligns with several other HRET programs promoting PFE practices to prevent errors and address patient safety in ambulatory care settings:

  • HRET, with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, surveyed hospitals across the U.S. in 2013 and 2014 about their PFE strategies and identified opportunities for improvement in the field.
  • HRET’s Hospital Improvement Innovation Network (HIIN) is leading a special fellowship for participants working on PFE at their hospitals.
  • Through a contract from AHRQ, HRET helped to develop a toolkit as part of the AHRQ Safety Program for Ambulatory Surgery. The project engaged 665 ambulatory care settings in a collaborative to improve patient safety in ambulatory surgery and endoscopy centers. The toolkit will be available later this year.
  • HRET works to improve communication and teamwork skills among ambulatory providers through a contract to administer the AHRQ TeamSTEPPS for Office-Based Care in-person and online programs. 

The evidence connecting patient and family engagement and safer care is mounting. We are all part of the team that is developing the new frontier of patient safety – one that has the patient firmly rooted at the center of the care team. Now is the time to focus on improving the patient experience, reducing errors and improving all segments of the patient care continuum to make better and more cost-effective care a reality.

Are you on the journey?

Jay Bhatt is president and CEO of HRET Trust and chief medical officer of the AHA. Katie Mockaitis is an HRET program manager.

Topic: Quality and Patient Safety
Tags: quality improvement, patient safety, culture of safety, patient and family engagement, care coordination


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