PRmoment Health Communications Review: Using advocacy for medication safety as WHO marks World Patient Safety Day

PRmoment's weekly 'Healthcare Communications Review' column looks at the biggest healthcare trends every week and analyses the communications implications. In partnership with SPAG, A Finn Partners Company.

How safe is the medicine in your hand? 

Have you taken a look at your medicine box lately? If you are anything like me it's probably littered with a range of medicines not directly prescribed by the doctor and obtained OTC through self-medication.

World Patient Safety Day 2022

In addition, unsafe medication practices and medication errors are leading causes of avoidable harm in health care across the world. Medication errors occur when weak medication systems and human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions or staff shortages affect the safety of the medication use process is exactly the issue WHO hopes to bring attention to. 

 In this context, ‘Medication Safety’ has been selected as the theme for World Patient Safety Day 2022 (marked every September 17th), with the slogan ‘Medication Without Harm’.

Aman Gupta, Founder, SPAG Asia, and Managing Partner, FINN Health Practice Asia Lead stated, "Patient safety is the cornerstone of healthcare decision making. Empowering the patient with access to the right and complete information is key in ensuring complete patient safety.

Errors may occur at different stages of medication or treatment and cause undesirable patient injury and harm. Globally, the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at $42 billion USD annually".. 

What does this mean for communicators:

1) Patient and medication safety is a much-neglected issue in India. Much of this has to do with a lack of trust in the health system and gender, caste and class barriers to proper information. 

Vidya Pawan Kapoor, AVP – Public Relations & Corporate Communications, Marengo Asia Healthcare explains: It is estimated that medication harm accounts for significant preventable harm in medical care. Accountability is, therefore, a very important component in a relationship between healthcare providers and patients. Accountability results in transparency as a key component among all the stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. Armed with awareness, a patient asks questions about his pre-existing health quotient; the medications and treatment plan his treating physician plans for him, and the recovery time post his treatment phase."

There is an urgent need for regular community-based national advocacy and communication campaigns to make people understand their rights and how to, as the WHO campaign says, ‘Know, Check & Ask’. 

Kapoor further states,"Our focus remains on creating a matrix where the safety of the patients and the best possible clinical outcomes are two major components. Patient First philosophy also focuses on gaining the trust of the patient ensuring accessibility and affordability of the healthcare service delivery. Healthcare providers across the globe should come forward and create an environment for patients, prioritizing their holistic health needs in working towards a healthy world."

Gupta elaborates," Leading healthcare companies, associations and providers are taking an effort to lead campaigns aimed to drive patient awareness. A patient-first philosophy will not only help to decrease worldwide healthcare expenditures but will also enable a more efficient healthcare ecosystem for all."

2) Medical errors, including medication errors, contribute to 5 million deaths in India, according to this 2018 story in Business Standard.  Safety courses such as the 'Acute Critical Care Course (ACCC),' developed in the early 1980s in Europe, can help reduce medical errors that caused death significantly especially in rural areas, according to experts. While researching data for this story, I found very little current data on medication-based errors, focusing on solving this and any specific advocacy around them. This an issue that communicators should focus on including how to generate good current data and use it to solve what is essentially a process and behaviour change challenge. 

3) Post-Covid people have become more aware of medication, and vaccines, this is acting like a super trend that lifted awareness about health overall including medicines and supplements. The situation is ripe for ongoing communication campaigns that focus on high-risk situations, transitions of care, polypharmacy (concurrent use of multiple medications) and look-alike, sound-alike medications. The campaign can be linked to the ongoing WHO theme that will provide a special focus on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for medication safety, considering the serious disruption in the provision of health services.

 Gupta commented on the latest approach to patient safety saying, "Things are changing post-Covid. Gupta stated, "Healthcare communications through advocacy and patient awareness campaigns play an important role in minimizing potential errors by equipping patients as well as doctors with relevant, accurate and timely information. Doctors are leveraging technology to be better equipped with patient history and specific conditions at the time of deciding the line of treatment or medication. Patients are also more informed.:

Covid Scan: India's tally of Covid-19 cases rose to 4,45,39,046, on Monday

In other news 

1) Cipla releases its film on ESG. #sustainability #CaringForLife #ListenToTheFuture. Take a look:

2) HelpAge India is launching an online safety skills program for 50,000 elders across 16 states in India, with grant support from

3) Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas pitches for Sustainable development Goals at UNGA. As you all know September is the month world leaders and influencers head for New York for the UN General Assembly.

Speaking at the UNGA, Priyanka said, "We meet today at a critical point at our world at a time when global solidarity is more important than ever. As countries continue to struggle from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the climate crisis upends lives and livelihoods, as conflicts, rage, and as poverty, displacement, hunger and inequalities destroy the very foundation of the more just world that we have fought for such a long time. And as we all know, all is not well with our world. But these crises didn't happen by chance, but they can be fixed with a plan. We have that plan. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, a to-do list for the world."

PostScript: Eat more salt!

Those of you who watched Queen Elizabeth II majestic funeral procession may have felt sorry for the 6000 UK armed forces soldiers in the heavy ceremonial gear walking kilometer after kilometer ahead and of the gun carriage bearing the Queen's coffin.

According to People magazine the soldiers were asked to down an extra 'satchel of salt' a day ahead of the funeral to prevent electrolyte loss.

That's it for this week. Special thanks to SPAG, a FINN Partner company for their ongoing support for this weekly column. 

News Curated for PRmoment India by:

Impact Research and Measurement

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