Creating a Safe Environment for Patients on Hospice

June 8, 2018, Gilchrist

Creating a safe environment for patients on hospice and their families is a priority at Gilchrist. Because patients of Gilchrist tend to be either elderly or at the end of life, they are at higher risk for falls or medication errors, such as missing a dose or taking the wrong medication. Our goal is to help decrease these risks and create the safest environment possible for patients and their families who are caring for them.

Medication Safety

Gilchrist takes steps to continuously improve safety. Our patient safety teams have implemented numerous interventions that have resulted in a 24 percent reduction in medication errors (e.g., taking the wrong medication or dose) in the last year. One such intervention is the use of the “first call” protocol, which directs informal caregivers in the home to call their nurse prior to the first dose of injectable medication in order to ensure medication safety.

Reducing Injuries from Falls

Another key area of safety focus at Gilchrist is the reduction of patient falls with injury.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls cause more than 27,000 deaths and 7 million injuries of older adults in the United States. Additionally, the estimated Medicare cost to treat fall injuries sustained by the elderly is $31 billion annually.

Gilchrist has successfully slowed the growth of falls with injury as compared to the rising patient census through such initiatives as beveled edge fall mats, deprescribing nonessential medication, increasing awareness of and communication about patients with high fall risk, and partnering with facilities to identify appropriate safety interventions.

Gilchrist is also piloting a new fall reduction program aimed at patients who have suffered multiple falls. The focus of the pilot is to identify hospice aides who can be “falls ambassadors,” who will receive training focused on assisting patients in maintaining strength, continuing to walk, and teaming with private duty professionals.

Safe Oxygen Use

A third area of creating a safe environment and patient safety focus at Gilchrist is oxygen safety and compliance. Proper oxygen use is imperative due to the possibility of fire or other dangerous outcomes, not only to the patient and family, but to others around their location. The patient safety team at Gilchrist ensures that patient compliance for oxygen use is as high as possible, through process improvements such as having patients sign and review oxygen safety contracts.

These are just a few examples of Gilchrist’s commitment to consistent and active participation in patient safety, and to intervening upon possibly unsafe situations in systematic, impactful and caring ways.

creating a safe environment
Leaders of the Gilchrist Patient Safety Team, (l to r) Trisha Kendall, MS, RN, OCN (medication safety), Bonnie Speicher RN, MSN (oxygen safety), Dionne Savage, RN, BSN (fall injuries) and Jen Avery, Director or Quality.

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