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Shine a spotlight on safety

By Sarah Fryda, Senior Research Associate, NRC Health


Patient safety is more than important. In 2016, a Johns Hopkins study claimed that more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making that the country’s third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Healthcare organizations across the country spend countless hours attempting to drive this statistic down.

Throughout the 2020 pandemic, a new aspect of safety—safety from the coronavirus—became a concern like no other in recent history, for both healthcare organizations and patients. Within the NRC Health comment database, patients using the word “safe” in their comments increased five-fold from 0.63% in February to 3.4% in May. Customers saw scores on overall feelings of safety among patients nearly double from 48.5% positive ratings in March to 82.9% positive ratings in December, as COVID-19 protocols were put in place and healthcare organizations adapted to the new reality.

To better support clients, we at NRC Health, took stock of our current offerings and made improvements in how we capture safety from the patient perspective. To that end, NRC Health now offers the following:

Expanded Identification of Safety through Text Analytics​

New categories
Prior to 2021, safety was only attributed to the facilities/environment entity. Now, organizations can also view safety in connection with providers, nurses, the care team, and administrative/reception staff, as well as facilities. These new categories make it easier to determine areas of opportunity or identify where your organization is excelling in safety.

Addition of clinical safety aspects
A key element of safety is now included in the safety category: clinical safety. In alignment with the Joint Commission’s 2021 Patient Safety Goals, the safety category now includes patient comments around:

  • Correct identification of patients
  • Getting test results to the right staff member on time
  • Using medicines safely
  • Using alarms safely
  • Preventing infection through handwashing
  • Reducing the risk of suicide
  • Preventing mistakes in surgery

Increased terminology for other types of safety
In addition to assessing general feelings of safety and security, NRC Health tested millions of patient comments to expand on several different types of safety expressed by patients, including:

  • COVID-19 Safety: Following COVID-19 protocols and wearing PPE correctly
  • Personal Safety: Safety of belongings and/or the facility
  • Information Safety: HIPAA compliance and safety/privacy of protected health information
  • Psychological Safety: Privacy, confidentiality, and/or sensitivity of/to feelings and emotions; creating a non-threatening environment

Question ​Library ​additions for collecting quantitative data​
We sifted through our Question Library to highlight questions around all the different types of safety that will allow your organization to track and trend several additional topics in a quantitative manner. Please contact your NRC Health account team for further information on these questions.

Other opportunities to evaluate safety

NRC Health offers several solutions for your organization to focus on safety:

  • ​Care Transitions allows your organization to connect with patients post-discharge to manage/minimize potential safety issues and reduce readmissions.
  • ​Community Insights helps you incorporate feedback and understanding on any topic into your community wants and needs. By engaging with the community, your organization can identify and target safety issues more effectively.
  • ​AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture (SOPS) captures provider and staff perceptions of patient safety for a 360-degree view of your organization’s safety culture.