off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid


Listen to patients to
ensure Patient Safety



The international conference on Patient Safety hosted by the World Health Organization held at the WHO headquarters in Geneva from September 12th to September 13th 2023 has again highlighted the importance of listening to the patients to ensure patient safety. Listening to the patients is an important component of Clinical Skills wherein careful history taking after listening to the patient and comprehensive physical examination are important to come to the correct diagnosis which can later be confirmed with the use of sophisticated equipment and instruments used for investigations like radiological procedures from plain X-rays to most latest CT Scan and MRIs and numerous laboratory investigations. However, there is no way to minimize the importance of clinical skills which unfortunately is not given due importance in teaching and training of healthcare professionals in Pakistan. A vast majority of the HCPs particularly the younger generation looking for short cuts faced with huge burden of patient workload has become slaves of modern gadgetry. They most often rush to write numerous tests and investigations many of which may not be needed or not necessary at all.

The theme selected by the WHO for the Patient Safety Day observed on September 17th “Engaging Patients for Patient Safety” is not only timely but will also help remind the medical profession the importance of good history and physical examination once again.

“First Do No Harm” is one of the fundamental principles of Medical Ethics. Most of the patient harm, it is believed is preventable but despite that even today it is estimated that “one in every ten patients experience harm in healthcare facilities. Moreover every year it is estimated that about more than three million deaths occur globally due to unsafe healthcare”. With careful planning, all this is preventable. As the WHO statement has highlighted, engagement of patients, their families and caregivers is one of the most important strategies to reduce harm during care. Listen to the patients, they will tell you the diagnosis but unfortunately most of the HCPs are too busy and have no time or are least interested in listening to the patient but only rush to write the prescription to entertain the next patient waiting. This is not at all a good practice which needs to be discouraged. WHO has done well to design a “Storytelling Toolkit” to guide the patients and their families through the sharing of their experiences, particularly related to harmful events? The WHO report further highlights that interim results of the 2023 survey of Member States on implementation of global patient safety plan shows that only 13% of responding countries have patient representative on Governing Boards of the healthcare facilities and that too is mostly in the developed world while it has yet to find its way in most of the Low and Middle Income countries. It is high time that our health planners and hospital administrators learn some lessons and adhering to the call of WHO involve patient’s representatives in decision making in hospitals. It does not cost much but requires only some administrative measures.

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