PRHI Board Members Discuss the Patient Safety Tech Challenge and the National Patient Safety Boards in Norway, Finland, and the UK

Robert Ferguson, MPH updates the Board on the National Patient Safety Board Act.

On July 27, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) Board convened to discuss the progress and next steps of the Patient Safety Technology Challenge and share how lessons learned on a study tour to Norway and Finland can inform the creation of the National Patient Safety Board in the United States.

During the meeting, Ariana Longley, MPH, patient safety consultant to PRHI, provided an update on the Patient Safety Technology Challenge, which has included 20 events in the past 10 months and 31 winning teams. Over 170 patient safety teams in total have participated in the PSTC with 6,420 people participating and in attendance and 20 judges and mentors sharing their expertise.

The Patient Safety Technology Challenge fuels the engagement of students and faculty from a variety of disciplines to become innovators in healthcare system safety, applying autonomous technologies. The Challenge integrates patient safety tech awards in existing hackathons, ideathons and local, regional, national, and international competitions with two different categories, the Big Idea Award for technological solutions to safety problems and the Futurist Award for the best overall redesign of a radically safer healthcare system. The initiative has made a total investment of $325,000 to date.

In discussion, Board members lauded the success of the competition and suggested ideas for maximizing its impact on patient safety. Ideas included partnering with health systems to test winning ideas, working to connect winners with seed investors and to serve as an employment pipeline for companies in the region.

JHF Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson updated the Board on the progress of the National Patient Safety Board, including the upcoming report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (Working Group on Patient Safety) and a meeting in Washington with Congressional staffers. In addition, Karen Feinstein, JHF President and CEO and Marty Hartlie, co-founder of Patients for Patient Safety US, presented observations from a recent JHF and PRHI study tour to Finland and Norway to learn more about their patient safety organizations and agendas.

In Norway, the Norwegian Healthcare Investigation Board (NHIB/UKOM) is focused on creating research studies and using interdisciplinary reflection panels to establish consensus action options for various injuries/harm in healthcare settings. A staff of 18 multidisciplinary experts sit on its healthcare investigation board with a mandate to investigate serious incidents and unsafe system design in the Norwegian healthcare services. Lessons learned from Norway include the importance of building a broad base of support at the outset, being true to the commitment to focus on the harms that create the worst consequences for the largest numbers of people, and to ensure that an implementation plan is inherent in the process.

In Finland, the delegation learned about Finland's aspirations to eliminate all avoidable healthcare harms by 2026 and to become the international leader in patient safety. To accomplish this, the government has established a Finnish Centre for Client and Patient Safety, a National Safety Plan based on the World Health Organization's comprehensive action grid, and a separate Healthcare Investigation Authority that serves under the Ministry of Justice and is part of a larger Authority. The SIAF is an independent and impartial agency with over 130 interdisciplinary experts to issue recommendations on safety improvements in multiple high-risk industries. Their reports on serious safety incidents can take up to 220 days and have a requirement that progress on recommendations be reported annually for ten years. Consequently, 70% of their recommendations are implemented. This was an important takeaway.

Finland is also establishing extensive requirements for the education of health professionals in patient safety—at the student and practitioner level. For this, the study tour participants are very envious. Also, distinctive is the focus on extensive communications planning and execution with personalized messages crafted and delivered at all stages of the research, findings, dissemination & implementation processes.

Andrew Murphy-Pittock, Head of Investigation Education at the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) in the UK, joined the meeting to describe the progress in the UK related to their own Healthcare Safety Investigation Board. HSIB is a non-regulatory, collaborative and (soon to be) totally independent agency. Among the lessons and recommendations, he shared: The importance of focusing efforts at a systems level, understanding what drives people, having public-political support, and maintaining independence to get the buy in and cooperation of the people.

Since these findings will inform the creation of the National Patient Safety Board (NPSB) in the U.S., members of PRHI's Full Court Press Team and the NPSB Policy and Advocacy Coalition joined the meeting for this special presentation. 

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