Top Patient Safety Challenges Facing Healthcare Providers in 2019

By Dr. Tom Schwieterman, Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at Midmark


Safety issues, which include everything from accessibility for patients with mobility issues to the risk of possible infection from contaminates, are present at nearly every point in a patient’s healthcare journey. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 1 in 4 patients are harmed while receiving primary and ambulatory healthcare – some of the most harmful actions are errors related to diagnosis and the use of medicines.

With an industry shift toward measuring and rewarding better patient outcomes, we are seeing a renewed focus on improving the patient experience – and today’s healthcare organizations can take action to create better experiences for patients.  

In the 2019 ECRI Institute's list of top patient safety concerns, diagnostic errors and managing test results remain the top patient safety issues for the second year in a row.

“When diagnoses and test results are not properly communicated or followed up, the potential exists to cause serious patient harm or death,” according to the ECRI Institute. “Providers have begun relying on the electronic health record (EHR) to help with clinical decision support, to track test results, and to flag issues. However, the EHR is only part of the solution.”

Now is the time for healthcare organizations to reclaim the patient experience. Caregivers and patients alike need to design an environment and workflow that leverages the power of digital records while ensuring the intimate and humanistic aspects involved in care delivery are maintained.

  • Start by limiting electronic barriers. Ideally, in-room digital technology should be invisible whenever possible–to preserve the essence of the important caregiver/patient interaction that happens during a patient visit. Clicks of all types need to be reduced (or eliminated), data flows from connected devices need to be automated and the human interfaces with computer systems must be optimized for efficiency.
  • Data entry should be seamless. Ordering tests needs to be completed with as few clicks as possible. Results from connected sensors, such as for vital signs measurements, should find their way automatically into the patient record. Data entry templates need to be painstakingly optimized to ensure the workflow is as efficient as possible.
  • Exam room equipment needs to be designed, or redesigned, with modern digital technologies in mind. Because EMR technology impacts virtually every step in the care journey, design of the exam room layout needs to include how EMR attributes can be optimized for workflow considerations. Major flaws, such as having the keyboard set up in a manner that causes the provider to face away from the patient, need immediate correction.

 Access the full list of safety concerns here:

ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization, is an independent, trusted authority on the medical practices and products that provide the safest, most cost-effective care. The ECRI Institute annual list of concerns addresses systemic issues facing health systems. It does not necessarily represent the issues that occur most frequently or are most severe, rather identifies new risks, how existing concerns may be changing because of new technology or care delivery models, and persistent issues that need renewed attention or that might have additional solutions.