Guest post by Rex Johnson and Yanling Yu, Founders of Washington Advocates for Patient Safety
Educating the public about medical errors and patient empowerment has always been a primary goal of Washington Advocates for Patient Safety (WAPS). At our spring WAPS meeting, member Vikki Owens came up with a brilliant idea to use art as a vehicle to raise public’s awareness on patient safety. Following Vikki’s suggestion, we took action.
On Saturday, August 15th, we did a public information booth at the Woodinville Festival and Street Fair. Our theme was “Art & Patient Safety Awareness, What does Patient Safety mean to you?” It was an amazingly positive experience.
The Woodinville Festival and Street Fair is a popular local free event for the suburb of Seattle. Typically about 5000+ people show up to check out a mixture of informational, art, crafts, and food booths as well as live music. Our organization has been planning to do an informational booth at a local street fair for some time and this year it came to fruition.
We picked the art and patient safety awareness theme in hopes of attracting people of all ages and inviting them to join our conversation on a variety of topics involving patient safety. We provided free art materials and supplies including an “Art Wall” to display people’s art works.
It worked amazingly well. The art supplies were just like magnets to the kids, who were instantaneously attracted and excited. We encouraged them to draw images relating to patient safety, but of course they could draw anything they wanted. While the children were busy making their artwork, we had the opportunity to chat with the parents about their perspective on patient safety and share with them ideas on how to protect themselves and their families from medical errors and superbug infections. We passed out lots of public education materials, such as Consumers Union’s fact sheet on antibiotic resistance and superbug infections; Choosing Wisely brochures, an information sheet on how to communicate with doctors and healthcare team; Consumers Union jumbo jet postcard that shows that 440,000 die each year due to medical harm; hand sanitizers; My Medication List by WPSC; pill boxes, etc.
Crowds flocked to our info booth. We were amazed that almost everyone we talked to had their own medical error story. And many knew about the massive problems of medical errors and antibiotic resistance. This made it easy for us to start conversations with people about how to be proactive to protect themselves and their loved ones. We asked people to go to our website and to join us in our battle to change the status quo in this country where medical errors are now the third leading cause of death.
Overall we were very pleased with this event. We talked to a lot of people about patient safety and raised awareness on this issue which was our main goal. Adding icing to the cake, we made contacts with the program manager from the North Shore Senior Center, the Woodinville Lions Club, and the Colon Cancer Stars; they asked us to come to their facility to do a patient safety presentation!
We would like to thank Consumers Union and its Safe Patient Project network. Without their support and inspiration, we would not have been able to put this public outreach together. We look forward to doing the same event next year and to further our conversations on patient safety with the general public.