University of Pennsylvania Health System

Quality & Outcomes

Patient Safety

Penn Medicine has dedicated significant human and financial resources to maintaining a high standard of patient safety. Most recently, Penn’s information systems were upgraded to act as an early warning electronic surveillance system, detecting and preventing medical patient safety concerns before they can become serious problems. Specially-trained patient safety professionals were assigned throughout Penn Medicine to provide expert assistance and other resources for the entire staff. Penn’s Trustees and senior management review progress improvements in this area on a regular basis.

But just as important as efforts to improve quality of care and patient safety are the efforts of patients. Penn Medicine strives daily to encourage patients to join their health care team as active partners. First and foremost, patients should understand their medical condition and the medications and procedures used to treat it. If the patient does not understand something about the care being provided, it is important to ask questions.

Clear Communications

When a medical order or test is prescribed, it is carefully documented and read back out loud to confirm accuracy. All abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols are standardized throughout the hospital for consistency and clarity. When a patient is passed from one stage of their treatment to another, a communications procedure has been instituted so the patient can raise and resolve questions with a health care provider. All medical record entries are legible.

  • Repeat back any new information given about your care.
  • Ask questions if anything is not clear.

Accuracy of Patient Identification

Two distinct forms of identification are checked every time a health care provider interacts with a patient. All tests, treatments, and procedures are discussed with the patient by asking if he or she knows the reason for the encounter. Further safety precautions are conducted such as comparing diagnostic studies with your ID bracelet, and ensuring that all consent forms are completed accurately and legibly.

  • Wear your ID bracelet at all times. If it happens to fall off, ask for a new one from your nurse immediately.
  • Make sure all of the information on your ID bracelet is correct.
  • Show your ID bracelet to all staff members who may come to help perform a procedure, surgery, or test, or give medicine.
  • Ask questions if there are any areas of concern regarding consent issues.

Safety Involving Medications

Special care is taken with drugs that may look alike, or whose names may sound alike. High-alert medications have been standardized for safe administration. And, of course, all medications, containers, and solutions are clearly labeled – regardless of where they are in the hospital.

All of the medications a patient is prescribed during the admission process will be documented and reviewed. An accurate list of medications will be shared across the continuum of care. Upon discharge from the hospital, a full medication list is given to each patient.

  • Make sure your doctor knows all of the medication you're currently taking, including dosages
  • Show your ID bracelet to the staff member before you're given medication.
  • Ask what medication you're being given.
  • Ask what this medication is for.
  • Ask if this medication may interfere with any other drugs you may be taking – including anything that's over-the-counter (OTC) and any vitamins, minerals, supplements, or natural remedies.
  • Carry your medication list and review it every time you work with a new health care professional.
  • Ask if you should resume any specific medications that were withheld during your stay.
  • Ask if you should stop taking any medications that were used during your stay.

Reducing the Risk of Health Care-Acquired Infections

Penn complies with all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hand hygiene guidelines – learn more about them at www.cdc.gov/handhygiene.

  • Ask everyone who comes to see and treat you to wash their hands first. This includes your friends and family!
  • Tell your nurse right away if your gown or linens are soiled.
  • Ask your friends and family that, if they are not feeling well, to please not visit you or anyone in the hospital.
  • If recommended, get vaccinated! Flu, pneumonia, and other vaccines can help prevent illness – particularly in young children, the elderly, and other high-risk patients.

Preventing Patient Falls

Any risks for falls while at the hospital are constantly assessed and reassessed in order to take action quickly. Appropriate patients are given a fall reduction program, which is discussed thoroughly with the individual.

  • Report any spills, obstacles, or other potential causes of falls to your nurse.
  • Take care when moving from your bed or walking down hospital hallways, especially at night. Take your time!
  • Make sure you always have adequate light to see.
  • Make sure you know the location of, and know how to use, the nurse "call" button. Feel free to ask for help in getting to the bathroom before the need becomes urgent.
  • If you have eyeglasses, make sure they are kept close by.
  • Wear slippers, or shoes, with rubber soles.
  • Make sure the brakes are locked before you get into or out of a wheelchair.

Know Your Resources

There are many comprehensive educational resources that have been developed by well-respected organizations, and it may be helpful to turn to them when making important health care decisions.

Pennsylvania hospitals are working hard to provide safe, high-quality care. Learn more about these efforts at: