By Susan Richards
Every professional in a medical-related field understands that accidents, mistakes, or unexpected emergencies can happen, regardless of the level of precaution. To err is human. In order to not only reduce the frequency of these events but also to gain knowledge from them the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 was signed into law, allowing the creation of patient safety organizations (PSOs).
To date, there are 94 national organizations that collect and analyze data from confidential reports in fields including emergency medicine, rural clinics, assisted living facilities, and anesthesiology. And in 2017, with the formation of the Dental Patient Safety Foundation (DPSF), the first and currently only PSO solely for dentistry was included on the list.
One of a Kind
The brainchild of Dr. Robert Bosack, DDS, the DPSF was modeled after the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), an independent, non-partisan, multi-disciplinary organization created to avoid preventable adverse clinical outcomes in anesthesia. While the APSF is supported and sponsored by organizations associated with dentistry, most of their issues aren’t specifically pertinent to dentists. Thus, a foundation targeting the distinct and unique clinical concerns of dentistry was needed, according to co-founder and Secretary/Treasurer, Stuart Lieblich, DMD.
Dr. Steve Yun, MD, is a board-certified anesthesiologist, faculty member of DOCS Education, and on the DPSF Planning and Development Committee. His job on the committee is overseeing the promulgation of the foundation, as well as the collection and analysis of adverse patient safety events when they’re reported.
“When an incident happens in a hospital, they do these reports so that medicine advances very quickly based on the new information that comes in from these cases,” explains Dr. Yun. The DPSF offers this valuable opportunity to the dental profession. “Adverse events and near misses can be reported completely anonymous, with complete protection. If we can get dentists willing to provide the same type of information, we can share and we can learn.”
The DPSF is independent and non-profit, with its only mission being to improve the safety and quality of dental care. All members volunteer their time and financial donations contribute to the maintenance of the website and server necessary to receive reports. All licensed healthcare providers in the dental profession, regardless of specialty, are invited to subscribe and encouraged to submit any concerns or incidents involving patient safety.
By using the reporting tool, participants can submit with full anonymity that’s protected by the federal government. Reports that might include near misses, unsafe conditions, anesthetic mishaps, or lapses in infection control will be developed and the DPSF will swiftly report back to inform ways to reduce risk, minimize hazards, and improve dental care. Safety reports are also circulated to subscribers on a monthly basis.
“As long as we are kept silent because of shame, because of fear, because of legal retribution, we as a community will not be able to learn and grow from these mistakes,” says Dr. Yun. “We all make mistakes, it’s part of being human.”
Reports can be current or from past events, and those wishing direct feedback can reach out with confidentiality. The metrics for education and correction are still in their infancy, which is why DPSF encourages dentists to spread the word to their colleagues and organizations and report often. The dental profession can be more isolated than medical practice, according to Dr. Lieblich, making it vitally important for us to work together to improve patient safety.
As an educator for over 20 years on sedation dentistry safety, Dr. Michael Silverman, DMD, of DOCS Education believes the DPSF is a tremendous way to inform dental professionals at all levels.
“We have a great safety record for DOCS course graduates but it’s an ongoing process for what we deliver to improve the safety of sedation,” he adds. “This website can give us a view into an area that’s so important. It’s really, really smart. I encourage all sedation dentists to subscribe to the DPSF and to contribute to support this one-of-a-kind resource.”
The organization will increase in value as more people in the industry get involved. A true culture of safety requires lifelong commitment and participation, according to the DPSF. Visit their comprehensive website for more information.
“If we don’t learn from each other, we don’t learn,” says Dr. Lieblich.
Author: Susan Richards is a staff writer at DOCS Education. With over 20 years of experience in local journalism and business marketing, Susan’s career includes award-winning feature writing, as well as creating content with context for a wide variety of industries.