Sunday, March 8, 2015
Patient Safety Awareness Week - Some History
The History of Patient Safety - Patient Safety Awareness Week March 8-15, 2015
Some say patient safety started in the late 1800’s with Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis who was a Hungarian physician now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures. He was born July 1, 1818 in Hungary and lived until 1865 where he died in Austria.
Seimmelweis was best known for his discovery that the incidence of puerperal fever, also known as childbed fever, an infection following childbirth, could be reduced by use of hand washing standards in obstetrical clinics.
Puerperal fever was common in mid-19th-century hospitals and often fatal, with mortality at 10%–35%.During a research on the autopsy of his friend who died because of a fatal dissection wound, Semmelweis noticed symptoms similar to those of childbed fever. This observation prompted him to connect cadaveric contamination with puerperal fever. Soon after he declared that medical students carried infectious substances on their hands from dissected cadavers to the laboring mothers. This also provided the logical explanation for a lower death rate in the second clinic, operated by midwives because they were not involved with autopsies or surgery.
Seimmelweis introduced chlorinated lime solutions for interns who had performed autopsies and this reduced the incidence of death of mothers following childbirth.
His discovery was not supported by his colleagues. At a conference of German physicians his ideas were rejected. The years of controversy gradually undermined his spirit.
The stories surrounding his being institutionalized are controversial. From suffering a breakdown because he had no fight left or that he was showing early signs of dementia. The stories surrounding his death are also questionable. He was beaten by staff until he died or he died from an infection. Either way, there is no question that infection caused many deaths in the 1800’s and it does so now. There is also no question that 150 years later, hand washing in the healthcare setting can reduce infection rates – but it’s still not done enough.
Today there are over 90,000 deaths from hospital acquired infection with a cost to the economy of $10 billion.