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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 pragmatic,... Read More

All Classics and Emerging Classics (907)

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 194 Results
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.
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.
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.
Sahlström M, Partanen P, Azimirad M, et al. J Nurs Manag. 2019;27:84-92.
This survey of medical inpatients at five academic medical centers in Finland aimed to elicit patients' perceptions of safety and experience of errors. Investigators found that encouragement from staff, education about patient safety, and comprehensible information all led to higher participation rates. The authors conclude that patients will be more engaged in their safety if frontline staff value patient involvement.
Khan A, Spector ND, Baird JD, et al. BMJ. 2018;363:k4764.
Patient engagement in safety takes many forms: patients may report unique safety incidents, encourage adherence to best medical practice, and coproduce improvement initiatives. Family-centered rounding in pediatrics invites families to express concerns, clarify information, and provide real-time input to the health care team. This pre–post study explored the safety impact of family-centered rounds on 3106 admissions in pediatric units at 7 hospitals. Family-centered rounds reduced both preventable and nonpreventable adverse events. They also improved family experience without substantially lengthening rounding time. A past PSNet interview discussed the safety benefits of structured communication between health care providers and family members.
Steelman VM, Shaw C, Shine L, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2019;45:249-258.
An unintentionally retained foreign object during a surgery or a procedure is considered a never event and can result in significant patient harm. Researchers retrospectively reviewed 308 events involving unintentionally retained foreign objects that were reported to The Joint Commission to better characterize these events, determine the impact on the patient, identify contributing factors, and make recommendations for improving safety.
Aiken LH, Sloane DM, Barnes H, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2018;37:1744-1751.
Factors in the hospital work environment can affect nurses' ability to provide safe care. In this survey study, investigators examined trends in nurse ratings of their work environment and patient ratings of care quality at 535 hospitals between 2005 and 2016. Over this time frame, about 20% of hospitals showed significant improvements in work environment scores, while 7% of hospitals demonstrated declining scores. There was an association between an improving work environment and better patient satisfaction. The authors conclude that lack of improvement in work environments may worsen safety culture and impede efforts to enhance patient safety. A PSNet interview with Linda Aiken discussed how nurse staffing and the work environment can affect patient safety and outcomes.
Magill SS, O'Leary E, Janelle SJ, et al. N Engl J Med. 2018;379:1732-1744.
Health care–associated infections (HAIs) are a key cause of preventable harm in hospitals. Successful programs to avert HAIs include the comprehensive unit-based safety program to reduce catheter-related bloodstream infections and the AHRQ Safety Program for Surgery to prevent surgical site infections. This survey of 12,299 patients at 199 hospitals on a single day enabled researchers to estimate the prevalence of HAIs in the United States. In 2015, 3.2% of hospitalized patients experienced an HAI, a 16% decrease compared to a similarly derived estimate in 2011. The most common HAIs were pneumonia and Clostridium difficile infections, while the biggest reductions were in urinary tract and surgical site infections. This data emphasizes the importance of identifying strategies to combat pneumonia in nonventilated patients, which remains common and less well-studied than other HAIs. A past PSNet perspective discussed the history around efforts to address preventable HAIs, including federal initiatives.
Fisher KA, Smith KM, Gallagher TH, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:190-197.
Patients are frequently encouraged to engage with health care providers as partners in safety by speaking up and sharing their concerns. Although research has shown that patients and family members sometimes identify safety issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, they may not always be willing to speak up. In this cross-sectional study involving eight hospitals, researchers used postdischarge patient survey data to understand patients' comfort in voicing concerns related to their care. Almost 50% of the 10,212 patients who responded to the survey reported experiencing a problem during hospitalization, and 30% of those patients did not always feel comfortable sharing their concerns. An Annual Perspective summarized approaches to engaging patients and caregivers in safety efforts.
Gates M, Wingert A, Featherstone R, et al. BMJ Open. 2018;8:e021967.
Fatigue among health care workers is a well-established safety issue that can increase risk of errors. Investigators conducted a systematic review to examine the effects of fatigue on both providers and patients, as well as the impact of efforts designed to mitigate fatigue. They ultimately included 47 studies in their analysis, 28 of which demonstrated a relationship between fatigue or inadequate sleep and physician health outcomes. Looking at six cohort studies and patient outcomes, they found no difference in patient mortality or postoperative complications between surgeons who were and were not sleep deprived. A past PSNet interview discussed how research on sleep deprivation among residents has informed duty hour changes.
Gillespie A, Reader TW. Milbank Q. 2018;96:530-567.
Patient voices provide crucial insight into health care safety hazards. Researchers classified 1110 patient complaints submitted to England's National Health Service to identify stages of care where harm occurred. The most common cause of major or catastrophic harm was diagnostic error.
Wick EC, Sehgal NL. JAMA Surg. 2018;153:948-954.
This systematic review of opioid stewardship practices following surgery identified eight intervention studies intended to reduce postsurgical opioid use. Organizational-level interventions such as changing orders in the electronic health record, demonstrated clear reductions in opioid prescribing. Clinician-facing interventions such as development and dissemination of local guidelines also led to reduced opioid prescribing. The authors emphasize the need for more high-quality evidence on opioid stewardship interventions.
Bohnert ASB, Guy GP, Losby JL. Ann Intern Med. 2018;169:367-375.
The opioid epidemic continues to be a pressing patient safety challenge in the United States. Many efforts have been implemented to curb opioid prescribing, such as policy initiatives and targeted feedback to individual clinicians. A major initiative was the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids for patients with chronic pain. These guidelines (which do not apply to patients with cancer or patients receiving palliative care) called for initially using nonopioid medications and nonpharmacologic approaches to chronic pain before using opioids, prescribing immediate-release instead of long-acting medications, and avoiding use of other sedating medications. This study examined trends in opioid prescribing rates before and after the CDC guidelines were released. Investigators found that opioid prescribing overall has decreased between 2012 and 2017, but the rate of decline increased after dissemination of the CDC guidelines. Perhaps the most notable finding is that the number of high-dose opioid prescriptions declined by nearly 50% over the study period (from 683 to 356 prescriptions per 100,000 adults). An Annual Perspective discussed the causes and potential solutions to opioid overprescribing.
Vaughn VM, Saint S, Krein SL, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:74-84.
The literature on effective approaches to improving quality and safety generally focuses on high reliability organizations and positive deviants—organizations or units that have achieved notable successes. This systematic review sought to characterize organizations that struggle to improve quality. The authors identified five domains that exemplify struggling organizations, including lack of a clear mission and organizational structure for improving quality and inadequate infrastructure.
Gates PJ, Meyerson SA, Baysari MT, et al. Pediatrics. 2018;142:e20180805.
Pediatric medication errors remain an important focus of safety initiatives. This systematic review examined the extent of preventable patient harm from medication errors for pediatric inpatients. The 22 included studies reported incidence rates ranging from 0 to 74 preventable adverse drug events per 1000 inpatient days. Across all studies, most errors were minor and did not result in patient harm. Use of health information technology was associated with less harm. Emphasizing the challenges of detecting and reporting errors, a related editorial calls for standardizing descriptions of preventable adverse events and harm in pediatrics. A WebM&M commentary addressed the high potential for weight-based medication errors in pediatrics and provided recommendations to help mitigate this risk.
Jung JJ, Jüni P, Lebovic G, et al. Ann Surg. 2020;271:122-127.
Analysis of errors in aviation is facilitated by the cockpit "black box," which records flight data as well as communications between team members. This study reports on initial data from the OR Black Box, a novel monitoring technology that integrates continuous monitoring of intraoperative data with video and audio recording of operative procedures. In this initial study of elective laparoscopic procedures, auditory and cognitive distractions were common, and multiple safety events occurred during each procedure.
Tawfik DS, Profit J, Morgenthaler TI, et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 2018;93:1571-1580.
Physician burnout is a highly prevalent patient safety concern. Researchers employed data from the American Medical Association to survey United States physicians about burnout and safety. Of 6586 respondents, 54% reported burnout symptoms, consistent with prior studies. More than 10% of respondents reported a major medical error in the prior 3 months, and these rates were even higher among physicians that had symptoms of burnout, even after adjustment for personal and practice factors. The majority of physicians graded their work unit safety as excellent or very good. The authors conclude interventions to improve safety must address both burnout and work unit safety. Because the survey response rate was less than 20%, it is unclear whether these findings reflect practicing US physicians more broadly. An Annual Perspective summarized the relationship between clinician burnout and patient safety.
Gomes T, Tadrous M, Mamdani MM, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1:e180217.
Opioid use can increase risk of adverse drug events, including overdoses. Researchers utilized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine opioid-related deaths in the United States from 2001 to 2016. During this period, opioid-related deaths increased by nearly 350%. Overdose deaths occurred more among men than women and were most prevalent in patients aged 15 to 34 years. These findings raise concern regarding the increasing proportion of deaths associated with opioid use. The authors call for targeted prevention and harm reduction efforts among young adults to address the growing opioid-related harm in this group. A PSNet perspective discussed opioid overdose as a patient safety problem.
Larochelle MR, Bernson D, Land T, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2018;169:137-145.
Nationally, opioid overdose remains a common cause of preventable death. Treatment of opioid use disorder with opioid replacement therapy, specifically methadone or buprenorphine, is a potent but underutilized strategy for reducing opioid-related harm. Investigators employed a prospective cohort study to follow 17,568 adults who were treated in Massachusetts emergency departments for a nonfatal opioid overdose. About 15% received opioid replacement therapy in the subsequent 2 years. Patients on opioid replacement therapy were substantially less likely to die from opioids or any other cause. An accompanying editorial from leaders at the National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights strategies to increase the number of Americans offered these life-saving therapies. The editorial also notes the alarming number of patients who received prescriptions for short-acting opioids and benzodiazepines after an opioid overdose. A past Annual Perspective and PSNet perspective delineated other strategies for addressing the opioid crisis.