The National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) announced the release of its new white paper, Call to Action: Safeguarding the Integrity of Healthcare Quality and Safety SystemsThe paper aims to foster a strong and just safety culture that offers a protective infrastructure so that all clinical professionals feel empowered  to share the responsibility of eliminating preventable harm in the nation’s healthcare system.

NAHQ’s Call to Action is intended to promote the advancement of care quality and patient safety and protect the integrity of the process for reporting and evaluating concerns while raising awareness of the need for improvement among leaders and policymakers.

“A strong safety culture is essential for any healthcare organization to maintain effective quality monitoring processes and ultimately preserve the integrity of health care quality and patient safety systems,” said Susan Goodwin, MSN RN, NAHQ Immediate Past President and assistant vice president, HCA in Nashville. “Without a strong safety culture, frontline providers and management may fail to identify a concerning pattern of performance or a single event or may hesitate to report them.”

The report, which is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work by volunteers, leaders and partnering organizations, comes after a 2010 straw poll of NAHQ members revealed that three out of four respondents had personally experienced ethical or professional concern after having brought attention to a quality or safety issue or risk.

The Institute of Medicine also reported that 40 percent of clinicians admit to not reporting adverse events or safety risks to avoid backlash or retaliation.

NAHQ collaborated with the following organizations in researching and providing recommendations for addressing the issues targeted in its Call to Action:

  • American College of Physician Executives
  • American Health Information Management Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • American Organization of Nurse Executives
  • American Society for Healthcare Risk Management
  • National Association Medical Staff Services
  • National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
  • National Patient Safety Foundation
  • The Joint Commission

With more insurers adopting pay-for-performance policies that link facility reimbursements to patient outcomes, NAHQ hopes that its Call to Action will inspire healthcare professionals to implement processes that will encourage reporting and ultimately improve patient care.  Specific recommendations made in the report include the following:

Create a focus on accountability for quality and safety as part of a strong and just culture:Educate employees continually about expectations for timely reporting of quality and safety concerns. Publicize ethical responses to errors and ‘good catches’ through management praise, peer recognition and other techniques. Regularly compare the organization’s performance in responding to quality and safety concerns with peer organizations. Consider engaging patients and families to report their concerns and ideas.

Ensure that protective structures are in place to encourage reporting of quality and safety concerns: Establish explicit policies that support error reporting and penalize reprisals in response to reporting. Respond, counsel and discipline as needed to ensure that egregious violators of policies regarding error reporting are not permitted to work or practice in the organization.

Ensure comprehensive, transparent, accurate data collection and reporting to internal and external oversight bodies: Establish quality improvements so that data collected are applied to foster improvements in patient outcomes. Set policies that protect data integrity, and communicate to clinicians any identified gaps in patient care processes.

Ensure effective responses to quality and safety concerns: Immediately investigate and respond to any adverse event, complaint or concern. Implement effective actions plans to address vulnerabilities and gaps in quality and safety processes.

Foster teamwork and open communication and ensure effective oversight.

To learn more about NAHQ’s Call to Actionclick here.