Technology improving patient safety and reducing errors in procedural skills

World Patient Safety Day on 17 September recognises patient safety as a global health priority, calling for concerted action to improve clinical practices and outcomes.

According to the WHO, unsafe practices and medication errors are a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm during healthcare provision. Various adverse events that jeopardise the health and wellbeing of patients and healthcare workers can be avoided by strengthening systems related to medication use and clinical practices more broadly, such as when administering medication through an intravenous line.

“It starts with establishing a culture of safety. Awareness of and commitment to safe practice is an attitude which needs to be instilled early on in medical training and sustained throughout clinical service,”

says Dr Rachel Weiss, Director of the UCT Clinical Skills Centre.

BD (Becton Dickinson) is a medical technology company that advances patient and healthcare worker safety through innovative medtech solutions and support for advocacy, policy-strengthening, and education.

“Improving education and communication strategies of healthcare workers, working in multi-disciplinary teams, compliance with relevant accreditation and certifications and introduction of technological solutions also contribute to improved safety and therefore overall quality of healthcare,”

says Ian Wakefield, Country General Manager of BD Africa.

BD has partnered with the MySkills Consortium to develop the MySkills Medic safety app for healthcare workers. Originating with the skills centres of the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Free State and Stellenbosch, the MySkills Consortium is a growing collaboration of clinicians, educators and students dedicated to sharing training resources across institutions and clinical settings. This is a health system-wide initiative to enhance patient and health worker safety.

The MySkills Medic app provides guidelines on procedural skills commonly performed by medical doctors and other healthcare workers at the bedside. By going mobile, this content is available 24/7, whether to train students in the skills lab, to support newly graduated interns at the patient’s bedside, or to update experienced practitioners on the latest protocols.

“Through this collaboration, we aimed to create a scalable platform where we can continue to share knowledge and work towards consensus approaches in health sciences education,”

says the University of Free State’s Prof Mathys Labuschagne.

The MySkills safety app content includes:

  • Updated protocols for bedside procedures commonly performed by junior doctors
  • Troubleshooting advice from experienced clinicians
  • Patient information and consent – a unique feature with suggestions on what information patients need to know about their procedures

Dr Weiss explains that while the Covid-19 pandemic tends to grab headlines, preventing infection and other injuries to patients and health care workers should be a daily priority. A whole section of the app, “IPC in skills”, covers asepsis and aseptic technique, gloving, hand hygiene, PPE and transmission-based precautions, scrubbing and gloving, and sharps, splash injuries and medical waste management.

The skills modules draw on evidence-based protocols, medical school curricula and practical problem-solving tips from educators and experienced clinicians working across diverse, often resource-constrained settings. The app is geared towards the southern African region, providing advice on equipment and consumables that are used locally.

MySkills Medic is available free from the Google Playstore and iStore. Downloading the app does not require registration or logging in, but users must respect the legal scope of practice applicable to their registration.

“Patient safety is an essential part of BD’s mandate that aims to create a safe environment for healthcare workers and patients. We research and develop medical technologies that help reduce medication errors, support health workers, and benefit their patients. We are proud to participate in the MySkills app initiative – it is a giant step towards making quality information accessible to health workers across South Africa,”

concludes Wakefield.

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