Improving Patient Safety in an Ambulatory Care Setting
Healthcare is increasingly moving to off-site facilities. While many safety discussions and innovations focus on acute care or inpatient settings, a growing need to address patient safety in the ambulatory care setting exists. At the same time, consumers across all industries are raising their expectations for cleanliness due to COVID-19. Healthcare organizations must learn to serve patients while prioritizing safety and cleanliness in new settings.
Factors Impacting Patient Safety in the Ambulatory Care Setting
Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are becoming the facility of choice for both patients and physicians. As this shift occurs, ASCs are likely to receive more high-acuity patients. Some states have passed legislation eliminating requirements for patients in these settings to be admitted and discharged the same day, potentially opening a door for ASCs to receive and keep high-acuity patients for more extended periods.
If the trend of ASCs serving higher-acuity patients continues, clinicians in these settings could also start performing more advanced procedures on-site. ASCs would then begin to experience risks traditionally only seen in hospitals. ASCs will need to ensure their environmental services and infection prevention standards are consistent with these new risks.
ASCs can enhance patient safety by creating effective plans for handling emergencies, such as maintaining a patient transfer agreement with a local hospital. Although ASCs have resuscitation equipment available, emergencies can go beyond the facility's capability to handle the situation. An emergency care agreement provides safety nets for patients and may ultimately save a patient's life when a nearby hospital has staff and equipment the ASC cannot offer.
Finally, as more people begin to visit ASCs for various needs, ASCs must increase their frequency of cleaning. Some facilities now experience constant traffic, such as facilities used for vaccine distribution. High-traffic, high-touch areas require more cleaning than they did in the past.
How to Improve Patient Safety in an Ambulatory Care Setting
Ambulatory care settings should implement specific strategies to bolster patient safety and improve the patient experience:
- Increased cleaning: Surfaces and settings should be cleaned more frequently and visibly during daytime hours to address the reality and perception of cleanliness.
- Supplemental disinfection technology: Deploy additional tools such as electrostatic sprayers and UVC technology to enhance the perception of cleanliness.
- Standardization: ASCs affiliated with a network of hospital systems can standardize ambulatory environmental services across multiple settings. Standardizing through one EVS partner does not create an impersonal, cookie-cutter approach but ensures each facility can maintain the same high standards. A standardized approach may reduce costs when large healthcare networks consolidate contracts with multiple vendors.
- Regulations and compliance: More regulatory compliance surveys designed to improve safety can help ensure ASCs create and maintain appropriate procedures.
ASCs focus on creating a more personalized, positive patient experience. Taking concrete steps to improve patient safety helps position their facility for continued success.