The World Health Organisation has called on health bodies to use IT more for data collection in healthcare settings to promote safety and reduce adverse events.

The call for action is one of ten points raised at the recent Patient Safety Research conference in Porto, Portugal – organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s World Alliance for Patient Safety, the UK’s Faculty of Public Health and University College London.

A WHO spokesperson told E-Health Insider: “Patient safety is a serious global concern, with successive studies showing that errors occur in around 10% of hospitalisations. Improving patient safety depends on effective and sustained policies and programmes being in place within every healthcare setting including the home, community and hospital.

“The use of IT can help to collect data which a health organisation can then use to learn from and eliminate safety issues quickly. In many nations, this is beginning, but there should be a growth across the world of professionals using IT to collect data, which upon expert analysis, could help to save thousands of lives.”

The WHO estimates that tens of millions of patients worldwide endure disabling injuries or death each year, directly attributed to unsafe medical practices and care. In Europe alone, an average of one in every 10 patients admitted to hospital suffers some form of preventable harm.

They hope that by using the latest advances in IT they can undertake more advanced research to better understand the full impact of poor patient safety.

Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for UK’s Department of Health, who chairs the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety, said: “Research in patient safety offers all WHO Member States a major innovative resource to assist their hospitals in avoiding harm from medical care and ensure that health care reduces patient suffering and does not contribute to it. European countries now have the opportunity to translate research findings into tangible actions that can actually save lives.”

The WHO says that plans are in progress to help push the agenda of patient safety, with IT playing a key part of the global campaign.

“We are looking to promote the development of a reporting system for patient-safety incidents in order to enhance patient safety learning from such incidents. Currently, monitoring systems that report patient safety differ in the way they classify incidents therefore making the analysis of causes problematic. In response, we are working to develop an internationally accepted terminology for patient safety terms and concepts,” a spokesperson said.

They added: “We will also review the role of other existing data sources, such as patient complaints and compensation systems, clinical databases and monitoring systems as a complementary source of information on patient-safety incidents. No adverse event should ever occur anywhere in the world if the knowledge exists to prevent it from happening.”


Patient Safety Research conference

WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety