September 2023, Egypt – This year, World Patient Safety Day 2023 is being celebrated around the theme “Engaging patients for patient safety”, in recognition of the central role that patients, their families and caregivers play in advancing safe care, reducing harm and preventing avoidable deaths.
With the slogan “Elevate the voice of patients”, World Patient Safety Day focuses on patient engagement in health care as a key strategy for delivering people-centred health services, reducing the burden of avoidable harm, strengthening health systems, enhancing health workers’ performance, reducing health care costs, and improving patient satisfaction, quality of life and health outcomes.
Patient harm due to unsafe care is a large and growing global public health challenge, and one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.
Globally, around one in 10 patients are harmed due to unsafe health care. More than 50% of that harm is preventable. In low, and middle-income countries alone, it is estimated that 134 million adverse events occur annually due to unsafe care in hospitals contributing to around 2.6 million deaths.
Almost half of the harm is attributed to medications, followed by invasive clinical procedures, surgical procedures, health care infections and diagnosis.
“Every year, large numbers of patients are harmed or die because of unsafe health care, especially in low- and middle-income countries, including in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. It is now evident that harm can be reduced if patient engagement strategies and interventions are put in place,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
Further to the human loss, the economic burden of unsafe care is huge. In low- and middle-income countries, unsafe and poor-quality care leads to from US$ 1.4 trillion to 1.6 trillion worth of lost productivity each year.
Additionally, the social cost of patient harm can be valued at US$ 1 trillion to 2 trillion a year.
Meaningful patient engagement can reduce the burden of harm by up to 15%, saving billions of dollars each year and consequently, could boost global economic growth by over 0.7% annually.
Evidence shows that patient engagement reduces health care errors and costs, and improves health outcomes, health care delivery, quality of care and life. The need is pressing to invest more in involving and empowering patients, engaging them and their families in patient safety in a scientific and strategic approach.
The fourth strategic objective of the “Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030” states that “Engage and empower patients and families to help and support the journey to safer health care” and the Patients for Patient Safety Programme.
Despite that, patient engagement in patient safety continues to lag in practice. Findings from the Interim Member State Survey conducted to assess implementation of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan indicated a pressing need for policy and resource investment at national and subnational levels, as patients’ involvement and representation at various levels was unsatisfactory, and insights from patients, if obtained was not effectively used for improvement.
“Within the Eastern Mediterranean Region, WHO has played an active role within the global WHO movement, extending its impact through a diverse array of actions. Our endeavours have encompassed the development of both the Patient Safety Hospital and Primary Care Frameworks. Proper implementation would support achievement of our regional vision of Health for All by All,” Dr Al-Mandhari added.
On the occasion of World Patient Safety Day 2023, WHO calls on all stakeholders to take necessary actions to ensure that patients are involved in policy formulation, are represented in governance structures, are engaged in co-designing safety strategies, and are active partners in their own care.