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Feds 'strongly encourage' health providers to adopt 10 safety measures

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A federal agency that focuses on quality within the health care system has released 10 "strongly encouraged" recommendations for maintaining patient safety.

Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) said health providers "should not delay adopting these practices":

  1. Making use of safety checklists when a patient is about to undergo surgery and/or anesthesia.
  2. Better hand-washing practices.
  3. Avoiding the use of any abbreviations on the "do not use" list.
  4. Making use of safety checklists when an IV type known as a "central line" is placed into a large vein in the neck, chest or groin in order to help prevent the development of bloodstream infections.
  5. Taking ultrasounds in real-time as central lines are inserted into a patient.
  6. Reducing the use of urinary catheters.
  7. Using barrier precautions – face masks, gloves, gowns – to prevent the spread of infection.
  8. Improving preventive care measures aimed at staving off pulmonary embolisms.
  9. Using "multicomponent interventions" to reduce pressure ulcers – that is, treating them them via a blend of patient education and individualized treatment.
  10. Taking certain precautions with patients who are on ventilators so they don't acquire pneumonia during their stint on the machine, including "sedation vacations" – daily interruptions of sedative drug infusions – and regular mouth suctioning.

In a related piece, the AHRQ said the harm these sorts of measures aim to prevent isn't inconsequential:

During the past decade, clinicians, researchers, and policymakers gained a greater understanding of the epidemiology of errors and preventable harms. The burden is larger than previously thought. Although we do not know exactly how many patients experience preventable harm, we know that, for example, 44 000 to 80 000 patients die each year in the United States of diagnostic errors, 68 000 of [pressure] ulcers, and many thousands of teamwork and communication errors and failure to receive evidence-based [care].

In an accompanying list of less emphatic recommendations, the agency also encouraged patients to create advance, end-of-life directives and providers to take measures to reduce radiation emitted from CT scans and other imaging tests.

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