New hospital harm data highlight urgency of improving patient safety

October 19, 2023

New hospital harm data highlight urgency of improving patient safety

Rates of potentially preventable harm to patients in Canadian hospitals in 2022–2023 remained at 6 percent, the third year in a row with a higher rate compared to pre-pandemic numbers, according to new data released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Prior to 2020, the rate had been stable between 5.3 and 5.4 percent since 2014. 

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed and exacerbated safety gaps in Canada and around the world. Patient safety and the safety – both physical and psychological – of people who work in healthcare are deeply intertwined, as the World Health Organization recognized in 2020. As the recently-released CIHI data show, sick time and overtime for Canadian hospital staff are up significantly. If you have accessed care or you work on the frontlines, you’ve probably seen the strains first-hand. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital to support people working in hospital settings and across the continuum of care to enable safer care.

Cumulatively, many small actions, taken every day, can have a big impact, leading to safer care. Last year, for instance, Healthcare Excellence Canada’s Safety Conversations Action Series supported 15 teams and 150 leaders from across the country to make effective safety conversations part of their regular work. An organization that implemented safety huddles found that “staff is waiting for the huddle to start as they see the value of coming together to talk about safety for patients.” Likewise, a network that brings together children’s hospitals in both Canada and the United States has achieved significant reductions in adverse drug events and the likelihood that a child receiving mechanical ventilation will have an unplanned extubation, among other indicators.

And there’s more to do. Healthcare Excellence Canada is calling on everyone committed to improving patient safety to join us by taking advantage of free resources and initiatives:

  • If you’re looking to adopt evidence-informed practices to prevent harm in hospitals, see the Hospital Harm Improvement Resource, a compilation of tools to support patient safety and improvement efforts in hospital settings.
  • If you want to retain and support people working in healthcare, join the Health Workforce Innovation Challenge – you can receive monetary awards, build capacity and share learnings with peers across the country.
  • If you’re looking to take small steps that can have a big impact on safer care, including expanding your understanding of safety, join the Canadian Patient Safety Week campaign which starts next week.

Last year, more than 10,000 leaders from thousands of organizations in every province and territory partnered with Healthcare Excellence Canada to improve safety and quality for the people they serve.  We hope you’ll join us.

Jennifer Zelmer, PhD
President & CEO, Healthcare Excellence Canada