Demands for improvements to safety in home care

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Home care is big business in Canada and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Currently, one out of every six seniors receives home care services. According to the Canadian Ministry of Employment and Social Development, the number of people 65 years of age or older will double, reaching 10.4 million by 2036. Given that Canada’s population growth rate is slowing (1.1 per cent between 2000 and 2010) and isn’t likely to increase in the next few decades years, seniors will make up nearly one third of our country’s population.

An aging population means an increasing number of people relying on the health care system. With a finite amount of acute and long-term care services available, in addition to a desire for many people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, the demand for home care services is going to continue to skyrocket.

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While many question how this rising demand will be met, another question deserving equal consideration is: how can we ensure these services will be safe?

The impact of harm in the health care system has been well-documented, both in terms of economical and human consequences. Much of the study in this area has traditionally centered around acute care, but recent research has started examining the impact of harm in home care.

In 2013, a research team led by Dr. Diane Doran and Dr. Régis Blais published a study entitled Safety at Home: A Pan-Canadian Home Care Study. Their research showed the rate of harmful incidents among Canadian home care clients was 10 – 13 per cent over a one-year period. Extrapolating to the more than one million home care recipients, 130,000 Canadians experience an adverse event per year, with half being deemed to be preventable.

What’s encouraging is that these findings and the recommendations to improve the quality of home care services proposed by the research team are destined to do more than gather dust on a shelf.

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Since the study’s release, the research team, along with the Canadian Home Care Association and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, have worked together to produce a number of products informed by the research findings and that have already been, or will be, disseminated in the next few months. These include a learning lab for home care `champions` at the Canadian Home Care Association`s 2013 summit, recommendations to Accreditation Canada to align of study findings with existing home care Required Organizational Practices for accreditation, webinars for providers on medication management and falls prevention and an interactive online learning module using case studies from an incident analysis.

Tools and resources aimed directly at clients and families include medication safety brochures for family caregivers and clients, resource guides on caregiver support/distress and on falls prevention in the home, and a plain language research summary.

This will culminate in a Home Care Roundtable on June 26, 2014, where much of the discussion will stem from the Safety at Home report. Attendance at the roundtable is by invite only and is comprised of leaders of health care organizations and health quality councils from across Canada. The invitees will bring a variety of perspectives on the safety of clients in the home care and community care settings.

The purpose of the Home Care Roundtable is to: foster a shared vision among partners at roundtable that they are committing to a process that will meaningfully advance safety in the home care; to obtain from partners the commitment to participate in the development and implementation of a national home care safety strategy; and to work towards the identification of high level strategic focuses which will help guide the development of that strategy.

The ultimate objective is to increase awareness of patient safety issues in home care and build momentum and capacity for improvement by connecting policy makers and stakeholders to set the table and influence policy, and ensuring the right tools into the hands of the right users at the right time.

For a copy of the Safety at Home report, or to access available tools and resources based on the report’s recommendations, visit www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca.