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A Reflection on World Patient Safety Day – Medication Without Harm

Update from Care Opinion Australia

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“Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are a leading cause 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. This can result in severe patient harm, disability and even death.” – World Health Organisation

The Australian health-scape is no stranger to staff shortages and COVID fatigue, and we have seen stories shared on Care Opinion that demonstrate how patients and their families are feeling the effects.

The World Health Organisation has stated that their campaign 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”. Looking specifically at stories told on Care Opinion about ‘medication safety’ we can see there was a clear increase in frequency in 2021.


*It should be noted that these stories may not all necessarily be critical, however, a large portion (62%) were rated ‘highly critical’.

With 67 critical stories told on the Care Opinion Australia platform about medication safety since January 2020, we can see the evidence of patients (57%), relatives (13%), parent/guardians (10%), service users (9%), carers (4%) and friends (4%) identifying concerns in care.

Now more than ever the voices of consumers are critical in partnering with their health services to ensure a safe health system. In fact, recent research from the London School of Economics has confirmed that patients are better at identifying safety issues than staff, particularly when consumers are able to tell their story in a safe and transparent way.

The research analysed over 146,000 stories from Care Opinion (and NHS-UK) about 134 NHS Trusts in England.

It used automated analysis to identify patient-reported safety incidents in these stories, and tested whether these predicted overall hospital mortality.

The measure of ‘online patient reported activity’ was found to be significantly predictive of hospital mortality but measures of ‘staff-reported’ safety incidents were not predictive of hospital mortality.

As a result, the researchers argue that ‘online patient feedback may reliably track the number of safety incidents within a hospital’.

That is, online patient feedback can identify significant safety issues ‘missed or ignored by staff’ and ‘may identify hospitals that have a poor track record in detecting and responding to safety incidents’.

Read the research here:

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