The week of October 21-27 shines a light on individuals who have made contributions to improve the quality of healthcare. National Healthcare Quality Week is hosted by the National Association of Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) and reminds us that there are lots of reasons why the quality of the healthcare we receive is important to us both as individuals and as communities. And if you’re living with chronic pain – be it from an illness, disease or injury – you know just how monumentally important quality healthcare is at every step of the pain journey.
The quality of healthcare impacts everyone because it is so closely aligned with patient safety. At the core of healthcare quality is the belief that care should meet the patient’s needs. It’s a value-based concept that puts the quality of care above the quantity of care.
Industry professionals explain is simply as a collaborative effort and one that means “providing the care the patient needs when the patient needs it, in an affordable, safe, effective manner.” It’s also about engagement: the patient should be empowered to participate in her care and take a proactive approach.
Initiatives designed to improve care
On a national level, organizations like the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion are focused on the biggest obstacles facing quality healthcare. Their initiatives “aim to increase patient safety through national action plans focused on the prevention of adverse drug events (unexpected or dangerous effects from medication) and healthcare-associated infections (infections that patients develop while receiving healthcare), as well as other aspects of patient care.”
Proactively working against ADEs
The issue of adverse drug events (ADEs) is especially timely for chronic pain sufferers who are also dealing with the impact of the opioid crisis. Patients who use opioids as directed still need dependable access to pain medication. Government agencies and health organizations are trying to protect chronic pain sufferers from the opioid epidemic, but they’re also trying not to punish them in the process. It’s a slippery slope.
In regards to healthcare quality, reconciling medication is just one piece of the puzzle. Another crucial initiative to improve care and safety is to reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs). To ensure patient safety means “healthcare systems must strive to prevent errors, learn from the errors that do occur and create a culture of safety that involves healthcare professionals, organizations, and patients.”
Preventing dangerous and costly HIAs
Yet another initiative focuses on HAI prevention. “HAIs are a significant cause of illness and death — and they can have devastating emotional, financial, and medical consequences,” according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “At any given time, about 1 in 25 inpatients have an infection related to hospital care. These infections lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars each year.”
What’s scary about HAIs is that they can occur during almost any kind of procedure and can be caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. They are a result of being in a care setting that hasn’t been properly cleaned and disinfected – like a hospital, medical center, surgery center or long-term care facility. A MRSA infections is an example of an HAI. You might be surprised to learn that according to studies, the most common HAI is a catheter-associated urinary tract infection.
Quality care for chronic pain sufferers
Living with daily pain equates to lots of doctor visits to seek a diagnosis, adjust your treatment plan or find a new path for treating your chronic condition. If seeing physicians or visiting hospitals is a regular part of your life, you know exactly how much you depend on quality care. 1 in 5 Americans live with chronic pain. That’s roughly 50 million people. Of that number, at least 8% (19.6 million people) have pain that interferes with their daily lives. These staggering statistics illustrate the need for quality healthcare.