5 Strategies for Improving Safety in Mental Health

In recent years, the World Health Organization has put renewed effort into highlighting the importance of mental health as it pertains to overall wellness. As a part of their core values and constitution, the WHO quotes, "Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health."

Yet, many health practitioners still focus primarily on physical health without evaluating what's happening in one's mind. This lack of focus and prioritization creates gaps in patient safety.

Here are five strategies for improving safety when treating mental health patients in your medical practice.

Create a Communicative Care Network

Creating a network of mental health practitioners and care resources is a powerful first step in improving patient safety and wellness. Having a referral network and available resources for patients who require care outside your scope of practice takes the onus off of them to conduct research and seek support. This effort on a practitioner's part makes it more likely that mental health patients will receive the care they deserve.

This communicative care network also creates an opportunity for care providers to learn from their peers and handle cases appropriately. For example, working with experts in Schizophrenia Treatment will help practitioners know what signs to look for, language and skills to use during appointments, and when it's time to refer out.

It's important to understand that people with mental health disorders will inevitably have physical health concerns as well. Having trusted peers to consult with when these intersections arise will improve patient safety, access to care, and quality of care.

Incorporate Patient Identification Systems

Data integrity and the reduction of entry errors plays a significant role in patient safety— especially with mental health concerns. Mental health patients tend to fall through the cracks, leading to harm to themselves and others. Incorporating patient identification systems and setting priorities around data integrity is essential for modern medical practices.

Having a patient identification system in place aids in communication and knowledge transfer with other healthcare providers. Technological innovations help create centralization in record sharing to prevent high-risk patients from falling into gaps left by broken healthcare systems. An astonishing 20 million patient referrals are misdirected each year. Putting internal measures in place to prevent these errors is essential for patient safety.

Provide Caregiver Resources and Support

Caregivers often bear the weight of their loved one's diagnosis, yet the focus is generally on the patient. Providing additional support, resources, and education for caregivers can help keep your patients safe and secure between appointments. Again, this ties into creating a strong network of resources and aligned service providers.

Invest in Trauma-Informed Training

It's also important to invest in trauma-informed training for everyone who comes in contact with patients at your practice. A patient with a mental health disorder who walks through your door is more likely to have experienced trauma than not. As many mental illnesses go undiagnosed or untreated, it's best to err on the side of caution and treat everyone as though they have underlying trauma.

Trauma-informed training teaches care providers and patient touchpoints how to avoid triggering a patient or causing retraumatization. One of the core tenements of trauma-informed care is patient safety.

Investing in trauma-informed care training should be a core value in any medical practice. Consider adding a requirement to job postings or taking the initiative to help staff attain this skill set.

Create a Safety-Centric Culture

Take steps to make patient safety a core part of your organizational culture. Empower patients and staff to come forward with any safety concerns and take time to audit your setup for potential risks. Remember that change starts from the top down; practice what you want to see modeled in your clinic.

Prioritizing patient safety for mental health patients doesn't require any significant or costly changes in your practice. In fact, it should become a standard practice in the healthcare industry. Don't be afraid to be a pilgrim in facilitating this change.