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Classics and Emerging Classics

To help our readers navigate the tremendous breadth of the PSNet Collection, AHRQ PSNet editors and advisors have given the designation of “Classic” to review articles, empirical studies, government and stakeholder reports, commentaries, and books of lasting importance to the patient safety field. These items have the potential to impact how providers approach care practice and are regularly referenced in the literature. More information on the selection process.


The “Emerging Classics” designation identifies those resources that may not have met the level of a “Classic” yet due to limited citation in the published literature or in the level of impact/contribution to the environment, but these are resources which our patient safety subject matter experts believe have the potential to drive change in the field.

Popular Classics

Huang SS, Septimus E, Kleinman K, et al. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:2255-2265.

Healthcare associated infection is a leading cause of preventable illness and death. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a virulent, multi-drug resistant infection increasingly seen across healthcare settings. This... Read More

All Classics and Emerging Classics (970)

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 324 Results
El Hechi MW, Bohnen JD, Westfal M, et al. J Am Coll Surg. 2019;230:926-933.
This paper describes the implementation of a "second victim" peer-support program in the surgery department at a tertiary care center. The program trained surgical attendings and trainees to provide peer-support for other surgeons involved in major adverse events. After one-year follow-up, 81% of affected surgeons elected to receive peer support. The majority (81%) felt the program had a positive impact on safety culture by providing a confidential, safe, and timely intervention for so-called "second victims". A 2011 Perspective on Safety with Dr. Albert Wu discussed ways that organizations can support "second victims."
Levine KJ, Carmody M, Silk KJ. J Nurs Manag. 2019;28:130-138.
Medical errors occur frequently but there is great variability in whether they are reported. Focus groups and one-on-one interviews were used in this study to determine the effect of hospital culture and climate on employee decisions to speak up–or not–about medical errors. The authors conclude that their results, gathered from a large hospital in a mid-sized city in the midwestern U.S., indicate this hospital’s culture does not facilitate reporting of medical errors and suggest that creating a positive organizational culture can both promote speaking up about medical errors and increase patient safety.
Young IJB, Luz S, Lone N. Int J Med Inform. 2019;132:103971.
An alternative to manual chart review, natural language processing (NLP) can efficiently analyze narrative text to identify adverse events. This systematic review identified 35 studies demonstrating that NLP can be used to classify narrative text according to incident type and harm severity and many NLP models can perform classification with similar outcomes to manual human classification.  
Blenkinsopp J, Snowden N, Mannion R, et al. J Health Org Manag. 2019;33:737-756.
Staff willingness to report threats to patient safety is critical to preventing errors and improving safety and is an indicator of an organization’s safety culture. The authors discuss studies exploring what factors influence whistleblowing, organizational responses, and implications for practice or policy. The authors concluded that the existing literature focuses on the decision to speak up. There is limited evidence discussing organizational responses or systems-level changes, yet these actions influence whether the patient safety threats are addressed and if future events will be reported.
O’Connell D. J Clin Outcomes Manag. 2019;26(5):213-218.
Disclosure of errors and adverse events is increasingly encouraged in health care. This article reviews disclosure and resolution pathways and discusses barriers to pathway implementation.  Ensuring clinicians are equipped with tools to implement effective disclosure and fair resolution benefits both patient safety and clinician emotional well-being.
Suliburk JW, Buck QM, Pirko CJ, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2:e198067.
Surgeon technical skill, real-time problem solving, and communication quality are essential for avoiding harm during surgery. This study found that those types of human errors were responsible for 51.6% of 188 surgical adverse events at 3 hospitals. A past PSNet perspective delineates the evolution of surgical patient safety.
Newman-Toker DE, Schaffer AC, Yu-Moe CW, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2019;6:227-240.
Diagnostic errors are widely acknowledged as a common patient safety problem, but difficulty in measuring these errors has made it challenging to quantify their impact. This study utilized a large national database of closed malpractice claims to estimate the frequency and severity of diagnostic errors. Researchers also sought to determine the types of diagnoses most vulnerable to misdiagnosis. Missed or delayed diagnoses accounted for 21% of 55,377 claims analyzed, and the majority of these cases resulted in permanent disability or death. These findings corroborate earlier research on closed malpractice claims in primary care and emergency department settings. Investigators found that three groups of diagnoses accounted for the majority of closed claims and high-severity events: vascular events (such as myocardial infarction and stroke), infections (such as sepsis), and cancer. This study represents an important step forward in identifying areas for improvement in diagnosis, but caution should be exercised in extrapolating these results, since malpractice claims only account for a small proportion of all adverse events experienced by patients. A previous PSNet perspective discussed momentum in the field of diagnostic error over the past several years.
Phuong JM, Penm J, Chaar B, et al. PLoS One. 2019;14:e0215837.
Drug shortages are a complex worldwide challenge to safe patient care. This review found economic, clinical, and psychosocial consequences associated with medication shortages for both patients and organizations. Highlighting weaknesses in the evidence base that stem from lack of data consistency, the authors describe the need for structured data on the medication shortage phenomenon to clarify their impact on patients across developed and developing countries. A WebM&M commentary explored medication safety in the context of drug shortages.
Klimas J, Gorfinkel L, Fairbairn N, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2:e193365.
High-risk opioid prescribing by providers contributes to opioid misuse. This systematic review sought to identify factors that confer risk for opioid addiction and thereby suggest which patients can safely take opioids. Researchers found that a prior history of substance use disorder, prescription of psychiatric medications, certain mental health diagnoses, higher daily opioid doses, and prescription of opioids for 30 days or more may confer risk for opioid addiction. The only factor associated with a lower risk of opioid use disorder was absence of a mood disorder. They could not identify any screening instruments or tools that accurately risk-stratified individuals' likelihood of opioid addiction. An Annual Perspective discussed problematic prescribing practices that likely contribute to adverse events and described promising practices to foster safer opioid use.
Adelman JS, Applebaum JR, Schechter CB, et al. JAMA. 2019;321:1780-1787.
Having multiple patient records open in the electronic health record increases the potential risk of wrong-patient actions. This randomized trial tested two different electronic health record configurations: one allowed up to four patient records to be open at a time, and the other allowed only one to be open. Among the 3356 clinicians with nearly 4.5 million order sessions, there were no significant differences in wrong-patient orders. However, the investigators noted that clinicians in the multiple records group placed most orders with just one record open. A post hoc analysis determined that the rate of errors increased when orders were placed with multiple records open. A related editorial highlights the tradeoffs between safety and efficiency and argues for examining the context of the two configurations, including throughput and clinician satisfaction. A previous PSNet perspective discussed assessing and improving the safety of electronic health records.
Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:423-429.
Maternal safety is a critical concern in health care, and prior studies have discussed racial and ethnic disparities in patient safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined trends in pregnancy-related deaths between 2011 and 2015. This analysis found that black women had rates of maternal mortality 3.5 times that of white women; Native American/Alaska Native women had rates 2.5 times higher than white women. About 60% of deaths were deemed preventable, and leading causes included cardiovascular events such as venous thromboembolism, infection, and hemorrhage. The study team recommends implementing interventions at health system, provider, community, and patient levels to prevent maternal mortality. A recent Annual Perspective on maternal safety touched on the persistently higher death rates among black women and discussed national initiatives to improve outcomes in maternity care.
Busch IM, Moretti F, Purgato M, et al. J Patient Saf. 2020;16:e61-e74.
The second victim phenomenon refers to the emotional impact adverse events and patient harm can have on health care team members, including physicians and nurses. This meta-analysis sought to quantify psychological and psychosomatic symptoms experienced by second victims. Researchers identified 18 studies and found that embarrassment, guilt, regret, self-recrimination, anxiety, fear of future errors, reliving the incident, and difficulty sleeping were the most common symptoms. These results underscore how involvement in errors can have detrimental consequences for provider well-being. The authors recommend both preventive programs and postevent support for health care workers after medical errors. A PSNet interview with Albert Wu, who coined the term second victim, discussed approaches to address this safety issue.
Kaisey M, Solomon AJ, Luu M, et al. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2019;30:51-56.
This retrospective study of patients with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis found that nearly 20% had been misdiagnosed and did not have the disease. The authors highlight the risks from misdiagnosis including exposure to high-risk medications with resultant adverse drug events and delay in correct treatment for patient conditions.

Oakes D. ASQ Quality Press; 2019. ISBN: 978-0-87389-982-6.

Root cause analysis is a widely used patient safety and quality improvement process for investigating adverse events. This book includes detailed steps to identify system-level causes including how to use diagrams and figures to assist in brainstorming causes and potential solutions.
Arriaga AF, Sweeney RE, Clapp JT, et al. Anesthesiology. 2019;130:1039-1048.
Debriefing after a critical event is a strategy drawn from high reliability industries to learn from failures and improve performance. This retrospective study of critical events in inpatient anesthesiology practice found that debriefing occurred in 49% of the incidents. Debriefs were less likely to occur when critical communication breakdowns were involved, and more than half of crisis events included at least one such breakdown. Interviews with care teams revealed that communication breakdowns present in some incidents impeded the subsequent debriefing process. The authors call for more consistent implementation of debriefing as a recommended patient safety process. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving miscommunication between a surgeon and an anesthesiologist.
Harbaugh CM, Lee JS, Chua K-P, et al. JAMA Surg. 2019;154:e185838.
This retrospective cohort study found that adolescent patients who received opioids for surgical and dental procedures were more likely to develop persistent opioid use if they had family members with long-term opioid use. The study team recommends preoperative screening for long-term opioid use in family members as part of prescribing decision-making for adolescent patients.
Badgery-Parker T, Pearson S-A, Dunn S, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179:499-505.
Overuse of unnecessary tests and procedures contributes to patient harm. In this cohort study, researchers found that patients who developed a hospital-acquired condition after undergoing a procedure that most likely should not have been performed had longer lengths of stay than patients who did not develop a hospital-acquired condition.
Rollman JE, Heyward J, Olson L, et al. JAMA. 2019;321:676-685.
Researchers assessed the effectiveness of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy in preventing inappropriate prescribing of transmucosal immediate-release fentanyl, high-risk opioid products with narrow prescribing indications. Survey data obtained from patients, providers, and pharmacists at various points after the FDA program's initiation suggested ongoing misunderstanding regarding appropriate prescribing. Analysis of claims data 5 years into the program revealed that anywhere from 35% to 55% of patients were prescribed transmucosal immediate-release fentanyl products inappropriately.
Rhee C, Jones TM, Hamad Y, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2:e187571.
The degree to which sepsis contributes to inpatient mortality and the extent to which sepsis-associated inpatient mortality is preventable remains unknown. In this retrospective cohort study, researchers analyzed the medical records of 568 adult patients hospitalized at 6 United States hospitals who either died during the hospitalization or were discharged to hospice. They found a diagnosis of sepsis was present in 300 cases and that it was the main cause of death in 198 cases. Reviewers rated 11 of the 300 sepsis-associated deaths as definitely or moderately likely preventable. The authors conclude that it may be challenging to further reduce sepsis-associated inpatient mortality.