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How can patient safety measures lead to cost savings?

11 October 2021

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Patient safety is the reduction of risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum (WHO). The health benefits of improving patient safety are clear, but what are the cost benefits to health systems? And do the costs of prevention outweigh the costs of failure?

In short, patient safety failures are extremely costly, dwarfing the costs of prevention. In our infographic about the rising cost of clinical negligence claims, we show how the cost of clinical claims in the NHS is not improving as hoped, and has in fact been getting worse. Of the entire healthcare budget for the NHS in England, clinical negligence claims have historically consumed about 2% (BMJ). Therefore, if these were to be reduced, significant cost savings could be gained and used to drive improved health care.

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The economics of patient safety

In a report by OECD in 2017 titled ‘The Economics of Patient Safety’, they strengthen a value-based approach to reducing patient harm at national level. Here we look at some of the key points made:

 

A critical policy issue

The 14th leading cause of the global disease burden (the impact of a health problem as measured by financial cost, mortality, morbidity, or other indicators) is estimated to be patient harm, comparable to diseases like tuberculosis. In some countries, patient harm is an even larger burden, similar to diseases like multiple sclerosis and some types of cancer.

 

Considerable cost to patients, healthcare systems and societies

It’s thought that in OECD countries, which include the UK, 15% of hospital expenditure and activity are caused by treating safety failures. It’s important to remember that there are knock on effects from adverse events, like the loss of trust in health systems.

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A few issues account for most of the burden

These issues are healthcare-associated infections (HAI), venous thromboembolism (VTE), pressure ulcers, medication error and wrong or delayed diagnosis. The annual cost of common adverse events in England is equal to 2,000 GPs or 3,500 hospital nurses.

 

The cost of prevention is much lower than the cost of harm

Better policies and practices need to be in place to prevent harm and drive the quality improvement of care. Prevention programmes for things like HAI and VTE are much cheaper to run than paying for the financial burden they cause. 

 

Building solid foundations

Fundamental system-level items should be invested in as a start, such as education, training and safety standards. These will help form the foundation of a national value-based approach, where harm is reduced using limited resources.

 

Engaging providers and patients

An integrated patient safety strategy involves adopting a positive safety culture for all involved. Clinical governance frameworks are critical, as well as listening to the patients.

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How technology can help improve patient safety

 

“As an organisation we recognise that the introduction of new technology presents clear opportunities to adapt and develop services within the NHS.” – NHS Resolution

Technology can play a large role in helping to improve the safety and quality of care provided to patients. Your patient safety technology partner should provide the potential for continual improvements in safety to:

  • Learn from what does and does not go well
  • Share best practice
  • Identify trends
  • Prevent Never Events
  • Reveal previously hidden insights

The right data, systems and culture can help you to benefit from many improved outcomes, not just patient safety.

“Recent developments in technology, notably enhanced artificial intelligence, give exciting opportunities which we are keen to explore.” – NHS Resolution

Do you think your current technology is not fit for purpose as your patient safety isn’t improving as expected? Take a look at Radar Healthcare; our software encourages logging of all incidents, risks, audits and more so that you can drive improved cultures and outcomes in your organisation. Find out more about how we help the NHS with our innovative software, or speak with our expert team:

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More on patient safety

Have you seen our patient safety hub? Here we cover all things patient safety including:

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