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World patient safety

In observance of World Patient Safety Day 2023, the chosen theme is “Engaging patients for patient safety,” underscoring the pivotal role played by patients, their families, and caregivers in advancing the cause of safe healthcare, reducing harm, and averting avoidable fatalities.

Under the banner of “Elevate the voice of patients,” World Patient Safety Day places a spotlight on patient involvement in healthcare as a fundamental strategy for delivering patient-centric healthcare services. This approach aims to curtail preventable harm, bolster healthcare systems, enhance the performance of healthcare workers, reduce healthcare expenditures, and elevate patient satisfaction, quality of life, and health outcomes.

Patient harm stemming from unsafe healthcare practices is a daunting and escalating global public health challenge, ranking among the primary contributors to worldwide mortality and disability.

Globally, nearly one in ten patients experience harm due to unsafe healthcare, with over 50% of these incidents being preventable. In low- and middle-income nations, an estimated 134 million adverse events arise annually due to unsafe hospital care, resulting in approximately 2.6 million deaths.

Medications account for nearly half of these adverse events, followed by invasive clinical procedures, surgical interventions, healthcare-associated infections, and diagnostic errors.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, highlighted, “Each year, a significant number of patients face harm or even death due to unsafe healthcare, particularly in low- and middle-income nations, including Eastern Mediterranean Region countries. It is now evident that implementing patient engagement strategies and interventions can significantly reduce harm.”

Furthermore, the economic toll of unsafe healthcare is substantial, ranging from US$ 1.4 trillion to 1.6 trillion in lost productivity each year in low- and middle-income countries. The social cost of patient harm is estimated at US$ 1 trillion to 2 trillion annually.

Significant patient engagement efforts can slash harm-related costs by up to 15%, saving billions of dollars annually and fostering over 0.7% global economic growth.

Research substantiates that patient engagement mitigates healthcare errors and expenses, enhances health outcomes, refines healthcare delivery, elevates care quality, and enhances overall quality of life. Consequently, there is an urgent need for greater investment in a scientific and strategic approach to involve and empower patients and their families in patient safety.

The fourth strategic objective of the “Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030” emphasizes “Engage and empower patients and families to help and support the journey to safer health care” along with the Patients for Patient Safety Programme.

Nonetheless, the practice of patient engagement in patient safety remains insufficient. The findings from the Interim Member State Survey demonstrate an acute demand for policy and resource allocation at national and subnational levels. Patient involvement and representation at various levels remain inadequate, and insights from patients, when obtained, are often underutilized for improvements.

Dr. Al-Mandhari added, “In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, WHO has actively participated in the global WHO movement, extending its impact through various initiatives, including the development of the Patient Safety Hospital and Primary Care Frameworks. Their proper implementation would align with our regional vision of ‘Health for All by All.'”

On the occasion of World Patient Safety Day 2023, WHO calls upon all stakeholders to take proactive measures to ensure that patients are integrated into policy formulation, represented in governance structures, engaged in the co-creation of safety strategies, and are active partners in their own healthcare.

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