News | October 31, 2007

Six Countries Meet on WHO’s “High 5s’ Project to Improve Hospital Patient Safety

November 1, 2007 - Top health leaders from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States met today in Washington, D.C. to sign a letter of intent supporting efforts to advance the global patient safety agenda through engagement in a special World Health Organization (WHO) Action on Patient Safety Initiative.

The collaborative initiative, known familiarly as the High 5s Project, seeks to improve the safety of patients around the world. The project is being coordinated by the WHO Collaborating Centre, which is led by The Joint Commission and Joint Commission International, in partnership with the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety and the Commonwealth Fund.

The centerpiece of the High 5s Project involves the development and implementation of standardized operating protocols (SOPs) to address five widespread patient safety problems in the participating countries and elsewhere. The SOPs will seek to:

– Promote effective management of concentrated injectable medicines.
- Assure medication accuracy at transitions in care.
- Improve communications during patient care handovers.
- Assure performance of the correct procedure at the correct body site.
- Promote improved hand hygiene to prevent healthcare-associated infections.

Four of the five SOPs have been finalized and approved by the participating countries. The fifth will be finalized within the next month. Once in place, the SOPs are expected to have broad impacts in preventing avoidable deaths and serious injuries in hospitals.

“The High 5s Project has developed five standard operating protocols to address five significant patient safety problems. These protocols will be used in hospitals in the partner countries, over the next five years and their impact will be monitored,” said Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer of England and chair of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety. “The interest and commitment being shown by the participating countries to implement these solutions is inspiring. “

The project also involves the elaboration of a sophisticated impact evaluation strategy that will assess not only the degree to which patient safety vulnerabilities have been eliminated but also the economic and cultural impacts of the SOPs at the hospital level. Project implementation is targeted for late summer of 2008, with the expectation that its impacts will be assessed over a five-year period.

“This initiative is best characterized as an applied research project in standardizing patient care processes to improve patient safety, and in evaluating the impacts thereof,” says Dennis S. O’Leary, M.D., president of The Joint Commission. “The challenges and opportunities inherent in this initiative have created great excitement and enthusiasm among the participating countries.”"

WHO designated The Joint Commission and Joint Commission International as its Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety in 2005. The High 5s Project is being overseen and led by a High 5s Steering Committee that is made up of patient safety officials from each of the participating countries.

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