The Safety in Healthcare in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Letter from the Chairman, August 2020

Dear Readers,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, what have we learned about stopping it?

The basics: wear a face mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.  

In communities where people are complying with these best practices, spread has been significantly reduced.

Safety is a priority, both for patients and health care workers.  Some aspects of hospital function can go back to a new normal.  Hospitals can reopen for elective surgery and take care of patients who have been kept waiting.  They are also now able to deal with non-COVID-19 demands — for example, to take care of those patients who needed treatment but were fearful of coming into a hospital teeming with COVID-19, or thought that maybe they could wait, and their symptoms would improve.

The world is waiting for treatments for COVID-19, and preventative vaccines seem just around the corner.  The news is promising here, but one thing remains clear — sticking to the basics is the best strategy we have to reduce novel coronavirus spread.  

Wear a facemask (properly).  Keep social distancing.  Wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.  With these three basic actions, the novel coronavirus can be contained, and for many, life and work may continue.

Unfortunately, there are still nearly not enough people doing these basic measures. We need our leaders to always demonstrate these actions until a vaccine and/or cure are developed. Maybe this year, maybe next year — or will this virus be like influenza and return in slightly different forms every year?  We don’t know yet.  That’s why these basic preventative measures — facemask, social distancing, and handwashing — are so important.  A “Back to Basics” approach is what it takes to continue to combat COVID-19.  

We must apply these and other basic parameters of patient safety to all who need or work in health care. Patient Safety Movement’s Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS) Blueprints are living documents that are designed to adapt to each organization, reinforce and introduce basic patient safety practices into the clinical workflow, and bolster reliability of care and practice.. To better support the international medical community, we are translating the APSS Blueprints, which are currently available online, into many languages.

The pandemic has demonstrated that safety in health care is much broader than we had initially focused on. It’s the patients, both in and out of the hospital; it’s those who take care of the patients; it’s the ability to provide access to health care; it’s the ability to continue to care safely for patients at home. Patients needing health care must feel that they can enter the hospital or physician’s office or care providers clinic safely.

The basic parameters of health safety we’ve learned in this pandemic will help us in dealing with similar future events.  We will have to learn how to create safe areas so that social distancing may be relaxed, and masks removed without risk, so that life can return to a safer “new normal.”

Also, a big “Shout Out” to our CEO Dr. David Mayer. He is hitting the major news networks every week as he “Walks Across America” in the names of those of our loved ones who were lost from preventable medical errors. March on, David – we support you!

Mike Ramsay, M.D.
Chairman, Patient Safety Movement Foundation
President, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, Dallas, TX