In response to your questions, I have prepared two answers which I am stating below. They are merely personal opinions, and I would definitely invite a healthy discussion on it.
Question 1: What is the patients' role in patient safety?
Answer: It is very critical to understand the role of a patient in patient safety, especially in an era where we seek inclusiveness in health care. The Strategic Framework of the Global Patient Safety Challenge includes 'Patients and the Public' as one of the four pillars of this strategy. This broad heading includes 'Public Awareness and Patient Literacy', 'Patient Engagement', 'Reporting by Patients' and 'Involvement of Patient Organizations'. This clearly shows that patients do have an integral and important role in maintaining their own safety.
Patients should be encouraged to observe providers and to gain knowledge about procedures. Given that the ratio between a skilled healthcare worker and his or her target population is, in many cases, mismatched, it is important to maximize the involvement of the patients themselves. A patient who is well-informed and well-educated about his or her own condition and the attendant procedure has a greater chance of reporting any error or trouble than one who is not.
A very useful article in this regard is 'Patient Safety: What about the patient?' by CA Vincent and A Coulter (https://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/11/1/76), which gives an interesting highlight into the roles patients play in the healthcare system, being its prime beneficiaries.
Patient participation needs to be increased in order for any reporting system to be effective, and there are several programs (notably the Speak Up initiative and the Questions Are The Answer program) that aim at building up this confidence among patients.
Hopefully, with the coming years and further research, we will be able to make up even better frameworks for active patient safety.
Question 2: What should public health agencies tell people about adverse effects?
Answer: The truth, without spreading the panic, with the essential information given in layman's terms - that's what public health agencies should tell the people. The Right to Life and Healthy Living is a Fundamental Right, and adverse effects of any healthcare procedure should be known beforehand so that they don't impinge upon these rights. Minimization of risks is essential, and the unavoidable ones need to be explained to the patients in question. This requires training of
specialized counselors, in my opinion, as a dedicated taskforce that can be appointed at places where healthcare services are provided.
In the events of major outbreaks, the public health agencies have the most important role to play. Dissemination of complete reports, in simplified terms, is essential, so that the public is aware of the situation and understands the gravity of the scenario. The lack of correct knowledge, in the garb of 'not spreading panic', is actually detrimental to the very people who are to be the beneficiaries of healthcare.
HIFA Profile: Md. Wamique Izhar is a Medical Student at Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, India.
Professional interests: Making healthcare accessible for all, encouraging statistical research on disease profiles, rational prescribing of medicines, patient education.
Email: wamique96izhar AT gmail.com