As 2016 draws to a close, many health care providers have yet to decide how their organization will navigate the government-mandated directive to join a Patient Safety Organization (PSO) by Jan. 1, 2017. According to Ellen Flynn, associate vice president, safety and accreditation for Vizient, “Approximately 60 percent of health care organizations with 50 or more beds in Vizient’s membership are currently determining the best course of action, whether that’s joining a PSO, participating in the Hospital Improvement Innovation Network (HIIN) project or managing the requirements in-house. Then there are others that are potentially unaware of the mandate altogether.”

Vizient’s PSO, which currently consists of 219 member organizations, strives to offer its members a collaborative environment in which they share ideas, learn new procedures and identify best practices to improve patient safety, quality and outcomes. In doing so, physicians, clinicians and hospitals are better empowered to make adjustments and improvements through the collaborative dynamic that characterizes all PSOs.

 “Generally speaking, if they work on patient safety by themselves they’re not going to progress as quickly as they need to. But if they create a safe learning space and collaborate with their peers on these topics, they should expect to improve patient safety outcomes at a faster pace,” said Flynn.

Privilege and confidentiality
A PSO offers an organization federal privilege and confidentiality protection, which helps health care providers feel safer when sharing information about incidents of patient harm. While organizations still need to be accountable for regulatory oversight and the factual information around errors will still be discoverable in litigation, a PSO provides a confidential environment for providers to conduct voluntary patient safety activities.

This confidential area is called a Patient Safety Evaluation System (PSES) and every organization should have one. A PSES is where health care providers maintain their confidential Patient Safety Work Product (PSWP), collect voluntary patient safety data, conduct deliberations and analysis about how to improve care, and communicate with their PSO.

“When working with a PSO, a provider may learn about potential safety events and take preventative measures before an event occurs in their organization. Clinical experts from the PSO and across organizations brainstorm together on solutions to prevent it from happening anywhere again,” said Flynn.

Safe learning environment
Historically, physicians and clinicians have been reluctant to discuss medical errors when they occur or ways errors could have been prevented. Without a fear of ‘blame and shame’ that can prohibit the sharing of ideas and concepts, health care providers are able to create a safe space to discuss what happened, learn from events and improve care.

A PSO facilitates learning across the organization by creating a Safe Table, where multiple providers come together to discuss events that may harm patients and opportunities for improvements. The goal of Safe Table meetings is to foster collaboration and promote learning.

Prior to Safe Table meetings, Vizient’s PSO conducts evidence-based research on the selected topic, using its extensive repository of patient safety data (more than 250,000 events submitted since 2014), and identifies leading experts to participate in the discussion. The Vizient PSO then facilitates the Safe Table discussions and works with their members and experts in the field to develop evidence-based toolkits to help improve member performance.

In this respect, a PSO supports collaborating with peer organizations. For example, the 219 members in Vizient’s PSO can create smaller affinity groups to address certain patient safety issues in their type of organizations, i.e. physician groups, home care providers, hospitals.

All organizations that engage with Vizient’s PSO participate in an orientation session to understand how to operationalize working with a PSO. In turn, Vizient helps the provider prioritize what data will have the greatest impact on patient safety outcomes and their specific culture. 

“To really drive collaboration and encourage our PSO members to network and learn from one another, we have an annual PSO Officer Education Session focused on improving the culture of safety in organizations. Our members value networking with other members: they say the meeting after the meeting is as valuable as the meeting,” added Flynn. In addition, the Vizient PSO facilitates six Safe Table meetings per year, and also provides two in-person meetings annually where industry experts and members come together to talk about how to improve the culture of safety and minimize risk.

If an organization has already committed to a PSO but is considering changing direction, it’s easy to make a transition. In fact, entities can actually be a member of several PSOs at any given time. The crucial objective is finding one that provides the best fit in terms of value for an organization’s specific needs.

 “Vizient offers the operational expertise to help licensed provider organizations structure their patient safety activities in a PSO environment. We’re a rich organization with a wealth of clinical experts internally and externally. This allows us to help our members quickly access the most current leading practices to improve patient safety outcomes,” said Flynn.

For more information and details on how gaining membership to a PSO benefits your organization and drives collaboration with peers, click here.

Published: December 15, 2016