Addressing Preventable Harm in Healthcare

Authored By:

Geir Arnhoff, CEO of Dossier

Geir Arnhoff


The statistics regarding preventable harm are alarming. According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in every 10 patients is harmed in healthcare, and more than 3 million deaths occur annually due to unsafe care. 

In low-to-middle-income countries, as many as 4 in 100 people die from unsafe care. Furthermore, the financial burden is significant, with medical errors costing around $20 billion annually. These numbers show preventable harm is a leading cause of death and a major contributor to healthcare expenditures in the U.S. 

For hospitals to address preventable harm, they need to ensure staff are trained appropriately and have the skills, knowledge, judgment, and decision-making necessary for their roles. New technologies pave the way for massive improvements in this area, allowing healthcare organizations to significantly reduce preventable harm incidents by: 

Appropriately training clinicians: Healthcare organizations should ensure clinicians are appropriately trained and have the qualifications for their assigned tasks. Clear guidelines and protocols should be established to prevent clinicians from practicing beyond their scope and to encourage effective collaboration among healthcare professionals.


Improving care coordination for complex medical conditions: Patients with complex medical conditions often require care from multiple providers across different healthcare settings. Poor coordination among these providers can result in fragmented care, medication errors, and delays in treatment. Healthcare organizations should prioritize care coordination by implementing robust communication systems, care management strategies, and health information exchange technologies. This will facilitate seamless information sharing and collaboration among healthcare teams, ultimately enhancing patient safety.


Not going beyond the “five rights” of medication safety: The “five rights” of medication safety (right patient, right medication, right dose, right route, and right time) form the foundation of safe medication administration. However, errors can still occur within this framework. Healthcare organizations should promote a medication safety culture by implementing additional safeguards, and competency plans can help to standardize this practice. Regular training and education programs for healthcare professionals can also enhance their understanding of safe medication practices. With a digital platform, pushing these updates and monitoring progress becomes streamlined. Dossier is extremely proud to work closely with #ASHP on digitizing and enhancing the ASHP Competency Assessment Centers to help hospitals and healthcare providers ensure appropriate training of their staff members. This is a great example of how digital tools can contribute to elevating medication safety.


Inaccurate patient medication lists: Accurate and up-to-date medication lists are essential for safe and effective healthcare delivery. However, discrepancies in medication lists can lead to errors, adverse drug events, and drug interactions. Healthcare organizations should implement robust medication reconciliation processes during transitions of care, involving patients as active participants in verifying and updating their medication information. Using electronic health records and standardized medication reconciliation protocols can significantly reduce inaccuracies in medication lists. Digital competency management software platforms help ensure staff is adequately trained and provide transparency in training requirements and compliance, giving executives and managers peace of mind towards their quality standards and surveyors.


Accidental use of neuromuscular blocking agents: These medications are typically used during surgical procedures to induce muscle relaxation. Accidental administration outside of a controlled setting can have serious consequences, including respiratory compromise and patient harm. Healthcare organizations should establish strict protocols and safety checks to prevent the accidental use of neuromuscular blocking agents in non-surgical settings. Implementing automated alerts, double-checking procedures, and comprehensive training for healthcare providers can minimize the risks associated with these medications. 

While the solutions to preventable harm in healthcare are multifaceted and require a systemic approach, the importance of having competent staff cannot be overstated. Healthcare organizations must invest in hiring and retaining qualified professionals who are adequately trained, licensed, and possess the necessary skills to deliver safe and effective care. Ongoing professional development, training programs, and performance assessments should be incorporated to ensure staff are current with the latest evidence-based practices and patient safety guidelines. 

Dossier helps healthcare organizations and systems easily manage competency-based training to create high-performing teams and mitigate errors. 


The challenges of preventable harm in healthcare are significant, yet they present a valuable opportunity for transformative progress. As we embrace digital solutions like #Dossier, healthcare organizations are becoming better equipped to manage competency-based training, which is fundamental in building high-performing teams and enhancing patient safety. 

The commitment to ongoing professional development and training is not only essential but also a beacon of hope. By keeping pace with the latest evidence-based practices and patient safety guidelines, healthcare professionals are poised to make substantial strides in reducing errors and elevating care quality.

This journey toward improvement is already underway, marked by notable advancements in care coordination, medication safety, and error prevention. The future of healthcare looks bright, brimming with possibilities for further enhancements. 

The collaborative efforts across the spectrum of healthcare organizations, technology providers, and dedicated professionals are instrumental in forging a safer and more efficient healthcare system. Moreover, empowering healthcare staff with the right tools and knowledge is more than just an enhancement of their skills—it’s a cultivation of a culture of safety and excellence in healthcare.

In conclusion, while the issue of preventable harm in healthcare is a pressing concern, the outlook is optimistic. With a focus on continuous improvement, technology adoption, and comprehensive training, the healthcare industry is steadily moving toward a future where patient safety and high-quality care are at the forefront, signaling a new era of healthcare excellence.

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