In August of 2011 I was privileged to be a part of one the NQF’s (National Quality Forum’s) webinars that featured Dr. Peter Pronovost as the featured speaker. My contribution was to be a panelist with the topic being infection prevention. This particular webinar was an interactive one meaning that hospitals who were participating could instantly answer questions we posed to them during the event.
One of the questions we asked was “How many of you have formal patient safety education programs in place within your hospitals?” The answer was shocking and we were stunned. Only 12% of the hospitals on the call had one. To us, this was unacceptable but we well knew the reasons why.
Patient safety education programs take manpower to facilitate and cost money to implement (with closed-circuit TV installation hospital-wide). Short-staffed facilities have no bandwidth when it comes to giving nurses yet another job to do. Hospitals operating on a tight budget cannot afford the initial cost of equipment purchase and installation.
The challenge plagued us for we knew that unless we could figure out a way for patients to become educated about the care they were receiving, the statistics for unintended patient harm would never begin to be reduced in a meaningful way.
We talked about the problem at length until one day when we came up with the idea of using QR Codes as a way to educate patients and their families at the bedside. QR Codes are also known as “Quick Response” Codes. They are the little square black and white checkerboard-looking bar codes that you’ve most probably seen in magazines and on flyers promoting products, sales and services. By pointing your smartphone at one of these codes you are instantly directed to a website or video attached to that barcode.
We thought that if we attached these kinds of codes to the most often occurring video instruction topics surrounding patient harm and printed them on a nearby poster inside hospitals and within patient rooms we could put potentially lifesaving videos into the hands of patients and their families at the precise moment they needed it. Not only that, but they could be distributed free to hospitals with no staff training or time requirement whatsoever. This kind of technology had never been used in this way in healthcare ever before.
Next we contacted organizations that could help us develop short video content to use within the posters. The Joint Commission’s Speak Up Campaign, The CDC, The Patient Channel and Kimberly-Clark came to mind. They all loved the idea.
Soon we’d designed 11 by 17 inch posters that were downloadable for free to any hospital that wanted them featuring 9 patient safety topics that could be viewed by patients and their families 24/7.
Since the official launch in February of last year thousands of these posters have been downloaded, printed and hung in hospitals and care centers all over the world. Now patients can begin to learn how to be safe as they receive their medical care. Truly, necessity was the mother of this much-needed invention!
We are grateful to our partners as well as the hospitals who use the posters to create a safer environment of care and we strongly encourage others who see any sort of “hole” within their area of healthcare to “fill” these kinds of holes with new ideas and be open to bringing in others who can help.
Safe care within our healthcare systems takes all of us working together. This we know for sure.
Victoria Nahum is a Patient, Family Member of a Patient and Co-Founder of Safe Care Campaign, created in 2006 after her stepson Joshua died from a healthcare-associated infection. He was 27.