As World Patient Safety Day is once again marked around the globe, we reflect on how our Surgical Site Infection Programme helped one of our clients live its mantra of “do no harm.”

For MercyAscot, one of New Zealand’s largest private surgical facilities, nothing is more important than patient safety. “It is core. We live and breathe it as part of the profession that we’re in, and our systems and processes inside the building have to underpin that philosophy,” explains Sarah Gardner, General Manager of Patient Engagement & Quality. “Part of having a really great culture around patient safety, and safety in general, is having a culture of reporting. It’s about making it intuitive and easily accessible, and part of the way in which you deliver care,” she continues.

What is Patient Safety?

Patient safety is a healthcare discipline that’s emerged in recent years, mostly in response to an increasingly complex health care system that contributed to a worrying rise of patient harm in health care facilities.

As a discipline, patient safety aims to reduce and ultimately prevent risks, errors and harm that occur to patients during the provision of care. According to the World Health Organisation, successful patient safety strategies need to include:

  • clear policies
  • leadership capacity
  • data to drive safety improvements
  • skilled health care professionals; and
  • effective involvement of patients in their care.

Globally there’s an increasing investment in patient safety initiatives designed to ensure a more effective, safe and patient-centric health service.

MercyAscot

As a surgical provider, MercyAscot’s patient safety is focussed on proactive post-operative surveillance. Surgical site infections are a significant risk of modern surgery, with measurement becoming more difficult once patients leave the private surgical setting.

“For MercyAscot, it is important to know about wound healing problems in a timely way so that if any interventions are required we can be alerted and investigate accordingly,” explains Francie Morgan, Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist.

For several years, the MercyAscot Infection Prevention and Control Service used a postal questionnaire for self-reporting of surgical site infections, sent to patients six weeks after the date of their surgery.

“With surgical site surveillance, we all know how time and labour intensive it is. And in private surgery, it’s very difficult to find your infections once patients are discharged, so you have to go out case finding,” says Francie.

Cemplicity’s Surgical Site Infection Programme

That’s where Cemplicity’s Surgical Site Infection Programme comes in. By digitising the outreach to patients, and allowing the timely capture and analysis of patient-reported outcomes, MercyAscot are able to respond quickly to any feedback that might suggest a post-surgical problem.

“Surgical site infection surveillance is the feedback mechanism to assure us if something isn’t quite right, wound healing wise, so we know about it,” says Francie.

With a 65% response rate to the digital questionnaires, MercyAscot are confident that they hear about any potential infection issues and can manage them before they escalate.

“A lot of the notifications we receive don’t necessarily become infections, but they are raised flags. This is where Cemplicity’s system really helps us.” explains Francie.

“For the safety side of it, if we don’t trawl and look in that wider pool, we’ll never know if we’ve quite looked at that population correctly. If we just wait for it to come to us, we might get a small lens on safety. But if we proactively go looking, the lens becomes a lot clearer and a lot more accurate.”

Not only are individual cases able to be managed in real time, but with aggregated data bringing analytical capability to the MercyAscot team, Cemplicity’s system fuels a culture of reporting and constant improvement that’s critical to the success of their patient safety programme.

“We’re getting information and intel in real time, which is great. It gives us the ability to step up and say actually I’ve seen a trend here, what do we need to do, what’s our plan around that?” says Sarah. “By having a culture that promotes reporting and use of data that is intuitive and easily accessible, it becomes part and parcel of the way in which you deliver care.”

An Integrated Solution

Cemplicity’s SSI programme offers much more than just a real-time, scalable feedback tool. With a clear action resolution graph, the healthcare team are able to keep on top of cases in a timely manner, focusing on priority cases at any given point.

Patient information is centralised, with background clinical data instantly accessible when it’s needed, alongside a comprehensive reference of the healthcare professionals who have been involved in the patient’s clinical pathway.

The digital questionnaires also provide improved transparency of patient engagement:

“Where before we never quite knew whether the questionnaire was sitting on the coffee table for three months – now the process starts off really crisply and smartly,” says Francie.

“It’s certainly been a huge positive. If you talk to infection control nurses who are running surveillance programs, they’ll all say it takes me forever. And then you start talking about Cemplicity and the quicker, easier, faster process and they’ll ping up like electric light bulbs.”