By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Patients with appointments at the Peterson clinic receive some of the best care the Air Force has to offer.
This was recently validated when it was announced that the 21st Medical Group received the Air Force Medical Services 2011 Best Ambulatory Clinic Patient Safety Team Award.
“This is the third time we’ve won it at the Air Force level,” said Katherine Wilson, 21st MDG chief of quality services. The clinic also won the honor in 2006 and 2008.
The announcement of this achievement coincided with Patient Safety Week, March 4-10. The theme for this year’s safety week was “Be Aware for Safe Care.”
A table was set up in the lobby with information for patients about their role in ensuring safe treatment. In addition to the table, the staff visited the Peterson Child Development Center to teach kids about proper hand washing, gave briefings about patient safety programs to base leadership, and hosted a guest speaker, Joe Procaccino, the legal advisor for the surgeon general.
“The idea is to make the patients aware they are part of the team,” Wilson said.
Patient awareness includes everything from making sure their physician is washing his or her hands, asking about any new medications or procedures, and bringing any concerns to the attention of the staff. Wilson said if a patient is ever concerned about any element of their care, anyone at the clinic would be happy to listen.
Beyond listening, Maria Bueno, 21st MDG patient safety manager, ensures the staff at the clinic works hard to catch potential problems before they happen.
Self-reporting is one of the biggest steps the clinic has taken to ensure patient safety. “If somebody sees something that has a potential for a problem we want to know about it before there’s a bad outcome,” Bueno said. The new self-reporting process has helped eliminate the stigma of blame that comes with making an error.
“We expect to get so many patient safety (reports) in and if we start getting zero, then people are either not embracing it or we’re not looking, because there’s always room for improvement,” said Lt. Col. Terence Mitchell, 21st MDG chief of medical staff.
Implementing the Patient Centered Medical Home model is another big step the clinic has taken to improve the quality and safety of patient care. Ideally, each provider would manage 1,250 patients and the patient would always see one of two physicians on the team. “It’s a huge patient safety issue to have continuity of care,” Wilson said.
This issue of continuity of care includes medicine reconciliation. It’s important for physicians to know what medication and supplements you are currently taking, Wilson said, so they can help you understand how a new medicine may react when combined. “If your provider gives you new medication, ask them what it’s for. Ask them what happens if you forget to take one. If you go to the pharmacy and you get a medication and it doesn’t look like the same kind of pill, go back and ask,” she said.
To win the Air Force Medical Services 2011 Best Ambulatory Clinic Patient Safety Program, the clinic submitted a package identifying these programs, among others, and indicated the success of their implementation.