Families, friends, and loved ones visiting patients in the hospital play an important role in improving patient safety, but there are times when their actions may be detrimental. A new report from the Patient Safety Authority reveals how the behavior of hospital visitors can influence the risk of patient harm. The study is highlighted in the June issue of Patient Safety.

About 64% of the time, a visitor’s behavior had a positive impact on patient safety; 36% of the time it made patient safety worse. Harm occurred most frequently when visitors moved or physically stabilized a patient, provided or removed items such as food, or manipulated equipment. In contrast, visitor behavior was found to prevent patient falls, the administration of incorrect medication, and allergic reactions.

The report also includes safety tips for visitors to the hospital. “It’s important that visitors do not help a patient walk, unless directed by a staff member,” says patient safety analyst Christine Sanchez, who led the study. “What can visitors do to help? Alert staff about new or worsening symptoms, if they think a wrong medication is being given, or if something in a medical document doesn’t seem right. These are a few examples of actions that can help reduce harm.”

Data for the analysis was drawn from PA-PSRS, one of the largest patient safety databases in the world, with more than 4 million event reports.

Other topics in this issue of Patient Safety include:

  • 2021 data reports from PA-PSRS – From the most common type of event in hospitals to healthcare-associated infections affecting nursing home residents, these concise analyses make the most complex information easy to understand.
  • Pediatric dose calculation factors – Medication management is one of the most precarious processes when it comes to our youngest patients. A team from the MedStar Health Research Institute analyzed patient safety events and found that 81.6% of them might have been prevented with optimal technology.

Patient Safety is the peer-reviewed journal of the Patient Safety AuthorityA scientific publication, Patient Safety humanizes patient harm with stories, opinion pieces, and magazine-quality design. It has a readership of more than 45,000 people in 164 countries.