Patients have an increasing role to play in their own medical safety
Despite being a medical doctor, Dr Saleyha Ahsan found it difficult to get medical staff treating her mother to take her concerns seriously, as she will reveal at a Conference on Medical Safety and Patient Participation taking place online with a global roster of speakers on 21 May 2021.
In October 2019, Saleyha Ahsan realised that her mother’s health was worsening and that there was a window to act to prevent her deterioration, but her concerns went unheeded, indeed, she said she was made to feel small and irrelevant. She recognised that her mother’s care needed a senior review and that there was no care plan or plan for escalation of care. As a result, nothing was done to alleviate her mother’s condition. Sadly, her mother passed away in some pain and discomfort.
Saleyha is now working at Ysbyty Gwynedd hospital in Bangor. Reflecting on the episode, she says that her experience was probably not unique, and that she had nowhere to turn to voice her concerns.
In Queensland, Australia, a similar issue has led to Ryan’s Rule law, where people have the right of access to specialist medical second opinion if they are unhappy with a diagnosis or treatment.
Saleyha will be sharing her experiences at a Patient Powered Safety Conference, which has attracted participation from world leading experts in medical safety.
The Online Conference is organised by Bangor University, in partnership with the Health Foundation and Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board’s Quality Improvement Hub.
Despite developments in healthcare technologies, the complexity of diseases and treatments is increasing the safety challenges presented while receiving care in hospital. This means that statistics relating to avoidable harms suffered by hospital in-patients have not shifted in 20 years.
But Conference organiser, Chris Subbe, Consultant in Acute, Respiratory & Intensive Care Medicine at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and lecturer in Medical Sciences at Bangor University, believes that the global pandemic has caused a significant shift in the landscape.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged most perceptions about what patients should or can do. We have already seen adaptation to the way we practice which could also deliver beneficial changes to the role and power of the individual patient within healthcare.
The pandemic has seen a major shift to patients monitoring their own vital signs such as levels of oxygen at home and admitting themselves to hospital when their condition becomes critical. It has also moved primary healthcare from the surgery and into the home. Where previously, 25% of consultations would take place ‘remotely’ not the number is nearer 75% of consultations taking place online, while the patient is still in their own home.”
Chris believes that this type of intervention represents a shift in culture which could also bring about a change in attitude in how patients can also take charge of their own safety, bringing with it improved health and potential cost benefits.
He will be sharing the experience/ results of an app which he has developed and trialled locally with support from Cancer Charity Tenovus. The app enables people being treated for cancer, and their families or carers to look out for and report side effects of those treatments, helping them to take the right steps if any complications occur during their treatment. This enables patients to take an active role in their care and illustrates the shift to including patient participation in medicine.
A concurrent theme is also the opening-up of healthcare records.
Making patient records available to the individual increases the opportunity for individuals to take an active part in their healthcare, by being able to check and correct errors and to make considered decisions about treatments being offered, and communicating that decision electronically at a later date.
Chris Subbe says: “The global roster of speakers attracted to the conference underlines the global nature of the issues being discussed. This is very much a topic which we should be developing in so many different directions and the time is now.”