By Wendy Sarubbi | July 11, 2016 3:37 pm

It might be as simple as a reminder to put on a new gown or wash your hands but these small actions can make a big difference in avoiding and spreading bacteria and illnesses.

In the recent second Annual Quality and Patient Safety Forum at the Orlando VA Medical Center, UCF Internal Medicine residents looked at various areas of patient care where they can improve patient care quality and safety. The yearlong project involving more than 30 residents examined current practices to see if they could be improved.

The forum included a seminar with the VA’s top QA physician – Dr. Douglas Paull – who is tasked with improving quality and safety at VA facilities nationwide. UCF’s Internal Medicine residency, now in its third year, is a partnership program with the VA and Osceola Regional Medical Center.

As part of their QA training, residents conducted research on safety topics. This year’s winners of the research poster presentation were third-year residents Drs. Emanuel Nazario, Bruna Pellini and Leslie Soto. They recommended patients could help reduce hospital infections by empowering them to speak up and remind visitors, staff and medical personnel to wash their hands and wear gloves, gowns and masks. Cross infection can occur when medical professionals go from room to room. The winning project studied how engaged and empowered patients can keep themselves and others safer through advocacy.

“I like to see the excitement of the residents as they look at things with a fresh eye,” said Dr. Ashwini Komarla, director of the residency program’s quality improvement and patient safety efforts. Dr. Komarla is a rheumatologist at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

She added that although everyone is trained to be cautious, doctors who have been working with the same procedures and protocol for many years may not readily see any problems, whereas residents can offer new perspectives.

Other topics offered ideas on better disease screening. Third-year residents Drs. Lillian Gonalez, Mustafa Kinaan and James Mellone’s presentation focused on improving primary care osteoporosis screening for men. Their findings showed that men were less likely to be screened than women, even though they can also suffer from the weakened bone condition.

“The project was to raise awareness and identify male patients who are at a higher risk of fractures,” said Dr. Komarla. Men with alcohol abuse issues, previous fractures and older patients with a family history of osteoporosis are at greater risk, and although there are tools in place to screen for the disease, it is not always checked for. The residents created a direct link to the screening checklist in the computer application used in primary care to ensure that the disease is not forgotten about for men.

“Since we implemented it in April, more patients are being tested for bone density and offered treatment,” said Dr. Komarla. “As frontline providers, this has given residents a chance to look at real problems and enact change and look at problems from every viewpoint — patients, nurses and doctors.”

Other winning projects included second-year residents Drs. Juan Jaller Char and Joan Morales Lappot whose focus was on decreasing patients wait times and improving patient flow by eliminating redundancy in paper work and having patients asked the same questions by multiple people and Drs. Natalia Castillo, Arfa Faiz, Nway Ko Ko and Wael Sankar whose project focused on implementing a standardized protocol for treatment and prevention of alcohol withdrawal in the hospital.

Dr. Komarla hopes that the forum gives residents a chance to share their findings and also to enact positive change to the system.

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