Healthcare industry must remain steadfast in its dedication to patient safety

Dr Mahesh Verma, Chairperson, NABH shares an overview of the current scenario on healthcare quality and safety in India

About Author: Dr Mahesh Verma, Chairperson, National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare providers (NABH) is an internationally acclaimed in the field of dental surgery. Dr Verma is a Padma Shri awardee, Dr. B. C. Roy awardee and National Science & Technology awardee. He is currently the Vice Chancellor of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi and Professor Emeritusat Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences.

India, the most populous country in the world, is making significant strides in improving healthcare quality and safety. In 2022, the country’s public expenditure on healthcare reached over 2% of GDP, the highest level on record.
This investment is paying off, as evidenced by a number of positive trends, including a decline in infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, an increase in life expectancy, and a growing number of people with access to basic healthcare services. Nevertheless, the journey to guaranteeing universal access to safe and top-tier healthcare for all Indians remains an ongoing endeavor, marked by a range of pressing challenges such as a shortage of healthcare workers; especially in rural areas, lack of standardized protocols and guidelines, etc.
However, despite these challenges, there are a number of important initiatives underway to improve healthcare quality and safety in India. One of the most important is the focus on patient safety. Patient safety is a fundamental element of healthcare and is defined as the freedom from unnecessary harm or potential harm associated with the provision of healthcare.
Current Situation of Patient Safety in India
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 10% of patients are harmed while receiving hospital care. Health Care-Associated Infections (HAIs) are a major global health problem, affecting hundreds of millions of patients each year. Of every 100 hospitalized patients at any given time, 7 in developed and 10 in developing countries will acquire an HAI. National Patient Safety Implementation Framework (2018-2025) highlights that there is no system of reporting HAI at any level and there is no authority in place to collect, analyze, and report HAI at the country level. It also states that NABH has a system of surveillance for HAI but is limited to NABH-accredited hospitals only. The NPSIF is being implemented by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with state governments, healthcare organizations, and other stakeholders to strengthen patient safety systems and processes, promote research on patient safety, empower patients and families, and improve healthcare worker training and education.
Initiatives to Improve Patient Safety in India
There are a number of initiatives underway to improve patient safety in India, including investing in training and education for healthcare workers, implementing safety systems and processes to prevent errors and adverse events, and empowering patients and families to speak up about safety concerns and to participate in their care:
  • NABH Accreditation and Certification programs: NABH accreditation is a voluntary process, but it is becoming increasingly important for hospitals and healthcare facilities that want to establish themselves as quality-driven healthcare providers. It regularly updates its accreditation standards to keep pace with advancements in healthcare practices. These updates ensure that accredited healthcare facilities meet the latest quality and safety requirements. Some recent standards include the first editions of Digital Health Accreditation Standards for Hospitals to assess the quality and safety of healthcare services delivered through digital platforms, ensuring patient data privacy and secure telemedicine practices, Entry Level Certification Standards for Dental Clinics to enhance the quality of dental services across the country, Certification Standards for Stroke Care Centres to address the specific needs of stroke patients and improve the quality and effectiveness of stroke care and Care Home Accreditation Standards to target care homes, emphasizing safety, comfort, and quality of care for residents.
  • Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), the world’s largest health insurance scheme, which provides financial protection to over 500 million Indians. The AB-PMJAY has a number of features that are designed to promote patient safety, such as a focus on primary care and preventive care.
  • Digital India initiative, which is using technology to improve the efficiency and transparency of the healthcare system. The Digital India initiative has a number of potential benefits for patient safety, such as reducing the risk of medication errors and improving communication between healthcare providers.
As India advances on its path to becoming a global healthcare leader, it must remain steadfast in its dedication to patient safety. Each initiative, accreditation standard, policy, and program outlined above is a testament to India’s commitment to elevating healthcare quality and safety. The vision of a safer, healthier India is within reach, and it is a journey worth undertaking for the well-being of every Indian citizen.

**The views expressed by the author are his own.