HCA Healthcare’s Chief Patient Safety Officer emphasizes the importance of patient safety in healthcare

HCA Healthcare's Chief Patient Safety Officer emphasizes the importance of patient safety in healthcare

This week, March 10-16 marks the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s annual Patient Safety Awareness Week. The purpose is to advance important discussions and inspire action to improve the safety of the healthcare system — for patients and the workforce. It is a dedicated time for growing awareness about patient safety and recognizing the work being done to promote it.

At HCA Healthcare, we embed patient safety into day-to-day operations at our facilities. Chief Patient Safety Officer Dr. Karla Miller shares some of the ways we engineer patient safety into our health system and introduces two colleagues leading the way for patient safety excellence.

Headshot of Dr. Karla Miller

By Karla Miller
HCA Healthcare Chief Patient Safety Officer

HCA Healthcare has long been committed to providing safe, quality care to patients and communities. Patient Safety Awareness Week is a dedicated time to refocus our discussions around patient safety, and recognize the great work being done to keep our patients safe.

Although significant progress has been made over the past several years in improving the safety of healthcare, preventable patient harm still occurs. According to an article published in January 2023 by the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly one out of every four patients experiences an adverse event across the healthcare industry, and nearly one-fourth of those events is preventable. There are still significant opportunities to improve the safety of patient care. As healthcare clinicians across the industry, we have the obligation to speak up about patient safety and make improvements to processes and systems to avoid preventable harm.

For decades HCA Healthcare has been an early adopter of technology and processes to improve patient safety.  We have quality and safety standards that set expectations across the industry. We are purposeful about integrating safety into care through people, processes and technology, and measure outcomes to reduce harm, prevent suffering and save lives.

I’m pleased to report that earlier this week, Healthgrades announced 93 HCA Healthcare facilities earned 2024 Patient Safety Excellence Awards. This program recognizes hospitals in the top 10% in the nation for patient safety, with the lowest occurrences of 14 preventable patient safety events. Per Healthgrades, HCA Healthcare has the most recipients of this award nationally for patient safety.

Thanks to all of our leaders and colleagues who share my passion for patient safety. I’m happy to share some of the ways that, together, we engineer patient safety into our culture at HCA Healthcare.

Culture of safety

Safe, quality care must be embedded into an organization’s culture. Across HCA Healthcare, patient safety and care experience teams are responsible for managing a federally chartered patient safety organization, and overseeing event reporting, patient experience, barcode medication administration and medication diversion prevention, among other programs. These teams are also responsible for clinical pharmacy surveillance software, implemented to prevent life-threatening medication errors, improve patient outcomes and reduce drug waste.

We leverage a Culture of Safety survey to help us measure our safety initiatives. This survey is an invaluable tool that helps drive our safety agenda and ensure the voice of our colleagues is heard. As we assess our anonymous survey results and candid feedback, we are able to draw insights into the strengths of our safety culture as well as our vulnerabilities. 

Safe Tables: Your voice matters

HCA Healthcare’s Patient Safety Organization (PSO) was established ten years ago to improve patient safety and healthcare quality by building systems and refining processes to foster a culture of safety. Intentionally focusing on protecting conversations around patient safety, the PSO holds an annual, enterprise-wide “Safe Table” campaign. The purpose of Safe Tables is to encourage all colleagues to share concerns and ideas related to the delivery of safe, quality care. Thousands of colleagues share their thoughts during Safe Table campaigns and as a result, leaders implement changes locally and enterprise-wide.

Each and every day our colleagues set the standard of safety at our facilities. Your voice matters and shapes the quality of care throughout our organization. The best way to celebrate and recognize Patient Safety Awareness Week is by continuing to demonstrate our focus on patient safety, so thank you for sharing your voice… and please continue to do so!

Physician Services Culture of Caring

HCA Healthcare’s clinical leaders are grounded in the belief that all patients are entitled to safe, compassionate, supportive, timely and collaborative healthcare that delivers positive outcomes and an exceptional experience. These seven descriptors define the core principles of Physician Services’ Culture of Caring initiative.

Launching in early 2024, the Culture of Caring initiative will spotlight stories of colleagues going the extra mile to care for patients and each other. It will include relevant resources and educational opportunities, including for patient safety excellence. Our colleagues are doing wonderful things to show they care, and we want to recognize them and empower others to do the same. Culture of Caring will come to symbolize “how we do healthcare” in HCA Healthcare’s Physician Services Group.

With gratitude, and colleague highlights

Thank you to all HCA Healthcare colleagues for your partnership in our patient safety work and for your commitment to the care and improvement of human life. There is nothing more important than providing a safe experience for the people who entrust us with their care. Please enjoy these colleague spotlights that feature just two of our colleagues for whom patient safety is their focus every day.

Fostering a culture of safety at HCA Florida Kendall Hospital

Aaron Clute and colleague Carla Cavalie smile for a picture.
Aaron Clute (right), Patient Safety Director at HCA Florida Kendall Hospital and Carla Cavalie (left), Emergency Department Unit Clerk

Aaron Clute has spent the past three years of his career helping to foster a culture of safety at HCA Florida Kendall Hospital in Miami. As the hospital’s patient safety director, he is responsible for involving every member of the care teams and leveraging technology to help provide a secure environment for our patients and colleagues. “It is through the collaboration with multidisciplinary leaders, colleagues and frontline staff that our culture of safety blossoms,” Aaron explained.

As promoting safety is a team effort, Aaron recognizes that he cannot be a leader in this area by sitting behind his desk. “Taking the time to connect with colleagues and having one-on-one discussions apprises me of the real-time concerns and barriers to their work,” Aaron said. “It is not enough to hear their concerns, but to circle back with how we addressed and resolved them.”

Aaron says the positive effects of HCA Healthcare’s Safe Table discussions are easy to see. “These open forums have revealed several opportunities to optimize the care we provide to our patients,” Aaron said. “We have converted these opportunities into actions to improve our processes.”

Improvements to patient safety processes are not solely addressed and implemented at the one facility where a potential concern is raised. It is often cascaded as a best practice to the 186 hospitals across HCA Healthcare’s network of hospitals. “It is this ability to share safety events and best practices that makes this organization so special,” Aaron shared. “HCA Healthcare has shown that once a best practice is identified, it can be effectively scaled from one hospital or division to another.”

“I am proud to represent HCA Healthcare every day – whether I am in the facility or out in the community – because I know the work we do makes a difference. There is nothing more rewarding to me than seeing teams throughout the organization passionately working through identified safety concerns and developing innovative systems to keep our patients safe.”

Aaron Clute, Patient Safety Director, HCA Florida Kendall Hospital

Cultivating an environment where Texas colleagues can enhance patient safety

Headshot of Jessica Kirby
Jessica Kirby, Assistant Vice President of Quality, HCA Healthcare’s Central and West Texas Division

Jessica Kirby has held many different roles within HCA Healthcare over the past 25 years. Starting as a physical therapy technician at HCA Healthcare’s LewisGale Hospital Pulaski in Virginia in 1998, Jessica has grown her career and cared for patients through various roles. She is now proud to lead patient safety efforts across our Central and West Texas Division hospitals and facilities “to support the amazing care our teams provide to every patient, every day.”

One of the cornerstones of patient safety within the hospitals and facilities she supports is the utilization of Safe Tables. Jessica says opening the doors to these conversations in formal group settings, as well as impromptu forums when rounding on patient care units, leads to an environment in which our colleagues feel safe to have open and honest conversations related to safety.

Lately, she notes that these forums have served as catalysts for proactive discussions on topics ranging from reviewing the downtime impact on clinical care to discussing patient safety with graduate medical education residents. The feedback from the Safe Table discussions is then analyzed by Jessica and her team members across the division to help identify and act upon opportunities to improve patient safety and the quality of healthcare delivery. 

Forums are not the only places where colleagues are encouraged to use their voices in regard to patient safety. Through the implementation of the “Good Catch” program, hospitals and facilities in Jessica’s division are able to recognize colleagues who report potential errors, adverse events and close calls regarding patient safety.

“HCA Healthcare is an organization that stands behind our commitment to safety through evidence-based resources, technology, professional growth of its people and creating a just culture to allow for learning from safety events. Safe care is the ultimate care to achieve our mission and positively impact patients in the communities we serve.”

Jessica Kirby, Assistant Vice President of Quality, HCA Healthcare’s Central and West Texas Division

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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