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Donna Sweet: Collaborations improve health, patient safety

  • Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Something important happened in Wichita on June 11 that may have escaped the attention of many. A group of physicians, nurses, operating room technicians and officials from all local hospitals and surgical facilities came together to announce their commitment to making Wichita the safest place to have surgery.

Before every surgery or invasive procedure that occurs in any hospital and surgical facility throughout the city, the medical team will stop – for one minute – and focus on five simple items:

•  Identifying the patient by name and birth date.

•  Confirming the procedure to occur.

•  Confirming the incision site is visible and images are available.

•  Confirming any patient allergies and that appropriate antibiotics have been given.

•  Discussing any potential environmental risks, such as fire.

While this “time-out” process already occurs in facilities throughout the country, what is unusual in Wichita is that the competing facilities are working collaboratively together to develop and implement the same checklist and the same pre- and post-procedure protocols. So now Wichita’s surgeons, many of whom operate in different facilities across the city and work with different operating room teams, will follow the same time-out process every time, every day. This will ensure a consistent level of patient care, reduce practice variations and improve communications among the medical team members.

Business competition is a critical element of our American way of life. But we firmly believe that when competing health care organizations collaborate rather than compete on issues of health care quality and patient safety, our entire community benefits.

Physician leaders from the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, along with critical leadership from hospital nurse administrators, are spearheading this surgical safety collaboration. The society is guiding several other cooperative endeavors that bring providers from across the city and county together, including:

•  The newly launched TPOPP-Wichita initiative (Transportable Physician Orders for Patient Preferences).

•  The Kansas Sports Concussion Partnership, operating since 2011.

•  The Maternal Infant Health Coalition and the Physician Safe Sleep Taskforce.

•  The Wichita Health Information Exchange, which served as a catalyst for the statewide Kansas Health Information Network.

•  Project Access, now in its 15th year, which has coordinated more than $160 million in donated health care to uninsured Wichitans. This is one of the finest illustrations of collaboration within our medical community and serves as a national model for such efforts.

In these collaborations, we discover that we are at our best and achieve the most when we work together.

Donna Sweet, who practices internal medicine, is president of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.

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