By Dr Bilal Shirazi | 14 Sep 2020

World Patient Safety Day 2020

The 17 September marks the second annual World Health Organization (WHO) led World Patient Safety Day. To mark the occasion we take a look at what it this important day is all about!


The 17 September marks the second annual World Health Organization (WHO) led World Patient Safety Day. To mark the occasion we take a look at what it this important day is all about!

What is World Patient Safety Day?

World Patient Safety Day was established in May 2019, when all 194 WHO member countries endorsed its creation at the 72nd World Health Assembly.

Patient safety campaigns have been a significant part of the WHO’s work for many years. Previous notable campaigns known as ‘Patient Safety Challenges’ included:

  • Clean Care is Safer Care launched in 2005, which focused on reducing healthcare related infections and illnesses by promoting better hand hygiene standards.
  • Safe Surgery Saves Lives launched in 2008, which was a campaign dedicated to reducing surgery risks.
  • Medication Without Harm launched in 2017, which aimed to reduce global instances of severe, avoidable harm caused by incorrectly prescribed or administered medicines by 50% by 2022.

In addition to these initiatives, the WHO continues to provide guidance and leadership to members through its annual Global Ministerial Summits on Patient Safety.

The establishment of World Patient Safety day was a further significant step in raising awareness and centralising patient safety goals for healthcare providers worldwide. The general aims of World Patient Safety day are to increase public awareness and engagement, enhance global understanding, and spur global solidarity and action to promote patient safety.

Why is World Patient Safety Day Important?

Before the creation of World Patient Safety Day, most of the focus around patient safety had solely been on cleanliness and hygiene standards. However in the 1990s several reports and investigations out of the United States began to clarify the extent to which healthcare provider errors could accidentally compromise patient safety. Further research also revealed that patient safety issues were more prevalent in lower income countries rather than more developed markets.

Here are some statistics about patient safety around the world to demonstrate the importance of this topic.

How Can Patient Safety be Improved?

The WHO is working on a range of measures to help tackle patient safety. Naturally you would assume that cleaner hospitals and more training for medical professionals both play a vital role. However better patient engagement is also seen as crucial to helping improve patient safety, by ensuring patients are better informed and empowered to speak with their medical provider about their illness and treatment.

The WHO is focusing on a range of measures to enhance the patient experience, reduce, and achieve better health outcomes and lower costs. Activities include:

  • Fostering collaboration
  • Setting global priorities for action
  • Developing guidelines and tools
  • Providing technical support
  • Engaging patients and families for safer health care
  • Monitoring improvements in patient safety
  • Conducting research in the area

In particular the WHO is focused on addressing some of the most common areas for medical error, such as preventing infections in hospitals and complications from surgery, reducing medication and dosage error, tackling unsafe injection practices which could transmit infections, and limiting diagnostic error.

How Does Patient Safety Apply in a Global Pandemic?

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the challenges healthcare providers face concerning patient safety. While we continue to learn more about the virus, several studies have highlighted hospital transmission as a potentially significant risk factor. Meanwhile COVID-19 has also highlighted how these challenges directly affect healthcare workers, both professionally and personally.

During the pandemic, there have been widespread global occurrences of healthcare workers:

  • Contracting COVID-19 and, in some cases, becoming seriously ill and even dying;
  • Experiencing violence at work;
  • Suffering psychological and emotional distress, both because of dealing with seriously ill COVID-19 patients and working long hours during the pandemic; and
  • Being stigmatised in public when wearing their uniform before or after work, for potentially carrying the virus.

It is also well established that working under stressful conditions leads to an increase in healthcare workers' errors, leading to patient safety being further compromised. As a result World Patient Safety Day 2020 aims to address the theme of Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety, with a focus on:

  • The importance of health worker safety and how this is interlinked to patient safety;
  • The need to urgently invest in the safety of health workers, as a priority for overall patient safety; and
  • Providing recognition of the dedication of healthcare workers during COVID-19.

How Can I Get Involved?

World Patient Safety Day represents a valuable opportunity for medical facilities and healthcare workers to re-engage with a hugely important issue.

Whether you are a healthcare worker, someone in a management role in the healthcare system, or just a concerned member of the public, there are many ways to get involved in this important campaign. You can visit the WHO website here to find fact sheets, guidance and other campaign resources. A simple post on your social media feed to raise awareness is good place to start!

Many cities, landmarks and monuments around the world will also be lit up in orange this September, to symbolise the central role patient safety plays in countries’ efforts to achieve universal health coverage.

At Now Health International we support this important campaign and encourage you to do the same. This year we would particularly like to express our sincere gratitude to all the healthcare workers in our provider network and worldwide, who continue to work tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19.

By Dr Bilal Shirazi

Dr. Bilal has more than 17 years of experience working across clinical medicine and the health insurance sector, with particular expertise in health insurance administration and operations. In addition to his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS), he has an MBA and is an Associate Member of the Life Office Management Association (LOMA).  

See Dr Bilal Shirazi's profile