Play Your Part – Empower People to Play An Active Role in their Care

Tiberius Pereira talks about the importance of engaging patients for patient safety. World Patient Safety Day 2023 will be observed on the 17th September under the theme “Engaging Patients for Patient Safety"

World Patient Safety Day 2023 will be observed on the 17th September under the theme “Engaging Patients for Patient Safety”, in recognition of the increasingly crucial role patients, families and caregivers play in the safety of health care. To mark the day, Patients for Patient Safety Ireland is launching a major new initiative calling on our Government to implement a joined-up approach to health literacy right across our healthcare and education systems, including through schools from an early age to empower people to engage and be active partners in their own care.

According to NALA and confirmed by international reports, when patients are treated as partners in their care and are enabled to be active partners in their own care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction and health outcomes. A health service with empowered and engaged patients is a safer and more effective service.

Furthermore, the EU Health Literacy Survey (2010) showed that 38.8% of people in Ireland have ‘limited’ health literacy. This has great implications for the health service and practitioners and makes health literacy a key issue to delivering a quality service with patient safety as a core goal.

Health literacy is defined as the ability to find, read, understand and use healthcare information. This includes how to access and navigate the healthcare system. Health literacy is in effect, the corner stone of how people get the most out of healthcare information. This includes accessing our own health information and understanding how to understand and use it for our own benefit. Many of us rely on our healthcare professionals to also be our teachers when it comes to understanding health matters, without that input the health literacy of our population would be much lower.

Healthcare professionals often work in extremely stressful environments. Under pressure of a huge workload it can be hard to remember that there is an imbalance of power between healthcare professionals and the patient. This can have a range of negative effects on patients’ experience of care. Empowered patients with the knowledge, skills and confidence to engage with healthcare professionals will enable patient understanding and improved collaboration – leading to fewer patient visits and better outcomes.

When a person is already in the healthcare system they may not be in the state of mind to absorb information about their condition. PFPSI therefore believes that health literacy is a life skill that should be taught through main stream education, in our primary and secondary schools, during those early formative years.

Timely health education has the potential to give them autonomy, to help people avoid some of the pitfalls and habits that ultimately lead to poor health, this coupled with health literacy would surely benefit society by creating informed people who become conscious consumers and wiser users of health care services. Educate people to give them a voice – the knowledge, skills and confidence to safeguard good health. Help us to help ourselves and thus take some of the burden off healthcare services.

Patients for Patient Safety Ireland (PFPSI) was formed 10 years ago under a World Health Organisation programme. We are a group of volunteers have been working in a spirit of partnership and collaboration with Irish healthcare for over ten years to elevate the voice of patients at every opportunity. Most PFPSI members have experienced harm in the health service in Ireland.

Tiberius Pereira

Patients for Patient Safety Ireland