Ensuring patient safety


It is estimated that one in every 10 patients is harmed while receiving care because of a range of preventable adverse events, according to a presentation cited by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The WHO said that adverse events due to unsafe patient care is likely one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability globally. 

Among the patient safety concerns mentioned by the WHO are medication errors, healthcare associated infections, unsafe surgical procedure, unsafe injection practices, diagnostic errors, unsafe transfusion practices, radiation errors, sepsis and blood clots. 

Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are a leading cause of avoidable harm in healthcare across the world, according to the WHO. Medications can cause serious harm if incorrectly stored, prescribed, dispensed, administered or if monitored insufficiently. 

Delivering quality essential health services devoid of errors can only be possible with patient safety. Patient safety aims to stave off and lower the risks, errors and harm during the provision of care. 

Established in 2017 and observed on Sept. 17, World Patient Safety Day reaffirmed the objectives of the WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm, an annual event also launched in 2017. 

The challenge calls on stakeholders to prioritize and take early action in key areas associated with significant patient harm due to unsafe medication practices. These include high-risk situations, transitions of care, polypharmacy (concurrent use of multiple medications) and look-alike, sound-alike medications. 

Medication errors occur when weak medication systems and human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions or staff shortages affect the safety of the medication use process. This can result in severe patient harm, disability and even death. The WHO noted that the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly exacerbated the risk of medication errors and associated medication-related harm. 

In 2008, the Department of Health (DoH) issued AO No. 2008-0023 to institutionalize quality assurance where patient safety is regarded as one of the key dimensions of quality healthcare. Correspondingly, the agency implemented its Patient Safety Program to provide a framework for quality and safe health services in all DoH hospitals and other health facilities. 

Anchored on the Universal Health Care Law and the call of the 72nd World Health Assembly on Global Action on Patient Safety, the DoH reaffirmed its commitment to promote and integrate patient safety in health service delivery to improve health systems and health outcomes. In February 2020, the DoH issued AO No. 2020-0007 enhancing the National Policy on Patient Safety in Health Facilities. The order provides guidance on the effective implementation and institutionalization of the Patient Safety Program in health facilities to improve safety in health service delivery, including that of the vulnerable population. 

“Patient safety is a fundamental element of healthcare and is regarded as an essential component for improving health outcomes. The provision of safe and quality health service that is responsive to the needs of the people is a vital pillar in helping achieve Universal Health Care,” the DoH stated. 

Meanwhile, the Patient Safety Movement (PSM), a global group with a presence in the Philippines, aims to achieve zero preventable patient harm and death across the globe by 2030. The PSM is also linking organizations and people for a collective advocacy on patient safety. 

The biopharmaceutical industry, too, aims to develop and make available quality, safe and efficacious medicines and vaccines. Based on its commitment to public health, the industry collaborates with the WHO, regulatory, and other standard-setting bodies in the development and implementation of guidelines standardizing the quality of medicines. To protect patient health, consistent standards for quality should be applied everywhere. 

Good Manufacturing and Good Distribution Practice (GMP/GDP) inspections, for example, are part of the overall quality assurance system for medicines. Inspections are essential to evaluate commercial manufacturing capability, adequacy of manufacturing and control procedures, suitability of equipment and facilities, and effectiveness of the quality management system. All these, among other safety measures being implemented by the biopharmaceutical industry, ultimately benefit patients and assure them of their safety. 


Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are at the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos. 

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