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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.

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 (867)

1 - 20 of 61 Results
Griffiths P, Ball JE, Bloor K, et al. National Institute for Health Research; 2018.
Missed nursing care has been linked to safety problems, but ensuring reliable levels of nurse staffing remains challenging. This report provides the results of a 3-year investigation into whether tracking of vital signs by nursing staff could serve as a viable measure for safe patient coverage. The report identified correlations between low staffing, missed vital sign observation, length of stay, and likelihood of mortality. However, record review found no direct relationship between safety and staffing levels. A PSNet perspective examined the relationship between missed nursing care and patient safety.
Müller M, Jürgens J, Redaèlli M, et al. BMJ Open. 2018;8:e022202.
Standardized handoff tools are increasingly implemented to improve communication between health care providers. Although this systematic review identified several studies supporting the use of SBAR as a communication tool to improve patient safety, the authors suggest the evidence is moderate and that further research is needed.
Tubbs-Cooley HL, Mara CA, Carle AC, et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173:44-51.
Excessive nursing workload is a known safety issue. This study examined whether nurse workload in the neonatal intensive care unit affected the quality of nursing care. Investigators measured workload using patient–nurse ratios, taking into account patient acuity, and a convenience sample of nurses also reported their perceived workload. Participating nurses were asked to report the care they provided, and missed care was defined as self-reported failure to provide any of 11 prespecified essential elements of nursing care. The authors identified a consistent association between perceived workload and missed care, suggesting that nurses' own assessments of their workload should be a safety consideration. A PSNet perspective explores how missed nursing care may explain the association between low nurse staffing levels and increased mortality in hospital patients.
Duffy JR, Culp S, Padrutt T. J Nurs Adm. 2018;48:361-367.
Prior research has shown that missed nursing care may in part result from reduced nurse staffing and is associated with adverse outcomes for patients. Using survey data from a sample of nurses at a single community hospital, researchers found that reduced nurse staffing, lower job satisfaction, and decreased satisfaction with teamwork were important factors related to missed nursing care.
Schnipper JL, Mixon A, Stein J, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2018;27:954-964.
The goal of medication reconciliation is to prevent unintended medication discrepancies at times of transitions in care, which can lead to adverse events. Implementing effective medication reconciliation interventions has proven to be challenging. In this AHRQ-funded quality improvement study, five hospitals implemented a standardized approach to admission and discharge medication reconciliation using an evidence-based toolkit with longitudinal mentorship from the study investigators. The toolkit was implemented at each study site by a pharmacist and a hospitalist with support from local leadership. The intervention did not achieve overall reduction in potentially harmful medication discrepancies compared to baseline temporal trends. However, significant differences existed between the study sites, with sites that successfully implemented the recommended interventions being more likely to achieve reductions in harmful medication discrepancies. The study highlights the difficulty inherent in implementing quality improvement interventions in real-world settings. A WebM&M commentary discussed the importance of medication reconciliation and suggested best practices.
Redmond P, Grimes TC, McDonnell R, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;8:CD010791.
This systematic review identified 25 randomized controlled trials of methods to improve medication reconciliation at the time of hospital discharge, most of which involved a pharmacist-mediated intervention. Overall, there was no clear evidence that medication reconciliation interventions reduced either medication discrepancies or adverse drug events. A previous commentary discussed the challenges in implementing effective medication reconciliation programs in real-world settings.
Griffiths P, Recio-Saucedo A, Dall'Ora C, et al. J Adv Nurs. 2018;74:1474-1487.
Inadequate hospital nurse staffing is linked to increased mortality. This systematic review found that lower nurse staffing is associated with more reports of missed nursing care. Two of the authors summarized the science of missed nursing care in a recent PSNet perspective.
Fiscella K, McDaniel SH. Amer Psychol. 2018;73:451-467.
Teamwork is an important element of safe care delivery. This review explores the evidence on the role of teams in ambulatory care, innovations in primary care teamwork models, and barriers to success. The authors offer recommendations to encourage team development in primary care, including defining team competencies, providing team training opportunities specific to ambulatory care, and adjusting care payment mechanisms.
Dalal AK, Schaffer A, Gershanik EF, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2018;33:1043-1051.
Incomplete follow-up of tests pending at hospital discharge is a persistent patient safety issue. This cluster-randomized trial used medical record review to assess whether an automated notification of test results to discharging hospitalist physicians and receiving primary care physicians improved follow-up compared with usual care. The intervention was focused on actionable test results, which constituted less than 10% of all pending tests. Even with the intervention, only 60% of tests deemed actionable had any documented follow-up in the medical record, and there was no significant difference compared to usual care. The authors conclude that automated clinician notification does not constitute a sufficient intervention to optimize management of tests pending at discharge. Previous WebM&M commentaries explored problems related to tests pending at discharge and how organizations can improve follow-up of abnormal test results.
Parshuram CS, Dryden-Palmer K, Farrell C, et al. JAMA. 2018;319:1002-1012.
Identifying incipient clinical deterioration is a prerequisite for rapid response and prevention of harm for hospitalized patients. This study tested a bedside pediatric early warning system, which included an illness severity score, standardized documentation, and monitoring protocols. In a cluster-randomized trial in several high-income countries, implementation of the bundle did not result in decreased in-hospital mortality compared to usual care. The overall mortality rate in the study was less than 0.2%. The authors suggest that this unexpectedly low mortality rate may have made it difficult to detect differences in intervention versus control hospitals. A related editorial suggests that artificial intelligence should be used to identify clinical deterioration and that outcomes beyond mortality should be considered in their evaluation.
Parent B, LaGrone LN, Albirair MT, et al. JAMA Surg. 2018;153:464-470.
Handoffs represent a significant risk to patient safety. Standardizing communication during the handoff process has the potential to reduce harm. In this trial, researchers assessed the impact of a standardized handoff curriculum on perceived interprovider communication in eight intensive care units (ICUs) across two hospital systems. Although the curriculum was perceived to improve shift preparedness among providers, they found no association with better patient outcomes in the ICUs, including length of stay, duration of mechanical ventilation, or reintubations. An accompanying editorial suggests that further research on standardized handoffs in the ICU is necessary to better understand the potential for improving patient outcomes. A previous PSNet interview discussed handoffs and the implementation and findings of the landmark I-PASS study.
Jones PM, Cherry RA, Allen BN, et al. JAMA. 2018;319:143-153.
Handoffs between providers are inevitable and are known to introduce risks. This retrospective population-based cohort study in Canada examined the effects of intraoperative handoffs between anesthesiologists on major complications, readmissions, and 30-day mortality among patients undergoing surgery. After adjustment for patient and site characteristics, patients who experienced an anesthesiologist handoff had higher rates of major complications and mortality compared to patients who had the same anesthesiologist throughout their procedure. The number of surgeries in which a handoff occurred increased over time during the 6-year study period. These results suggest that limiting intraoperative anesthesiologist handoffs may improve safety. However, a related editorial posits that reducing handoffs is a simplistic solution that may have unintended consequences and instead recommends that quality improvement approaches, such as developing standardized handoff procedures, may result in more meaningful enhancements for intraoperative anesthesia safety.
Ball JE, Bruyneel L, Aiken LH, et al. Int J Nurs Stud. 2018;78:10-15.
Missed nursing care may result from inadequate nurse staffing and explain the relationship between nurse-to-patient ratios and patient outcomes. Research has shown that higher nurse staffing levels are associated with lower inpatient mortality and that reduced staffing increases the risk for postoperative complications. In this study, investigators examined data from more than 400,000 surgical patients from 300 hospitals in 9 countries as well as survey responses from 26,516 nurses. They found a significant association between nurse staffing and missed nursing care with 30-day risk-adjusted postoperative mortality. The authors conclude that measuring missed nursing care may help identify patients at greater risk for adverse outcomes earlier in their course. A past WebM&M commentary highlighted important issues associated with nurse staffing ratios.
Scott AM, Li J, Oyewole-Eletu S, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2017;43.
Fragmented care transitions may lead to adverse events due to poor provider communication, disjointed continuation of care, and incomplete patient follow-up. In this study, site visits were conducted at 22 healthcare organization across the United State to determine facilitators and barriers to implementing transitional care services. Identified facilitators included collaborating within and beyond the organization, tailoring care to patients and caregivers, and generating buy-in among staff. Barriers included poor integration of transitional care services, unmet patient or caregiver needs, underutilized services, and lack of physician buy-in. Results suggest how institutions may wish to prioritize strategies to facility effective care transitions.
Walker S, Mason A, Quan P, et al. Lancet. 2017;390:62-72.
The weekend effect (higher mortality for patients in acute care settings on weekends compared to weekdays) has led to widespread concerns about hospital staffing. This retrospective study examined whether mortality for emergency admissions at four hospitals in the United Kingdom differed on weekends compared to weekdays. Unlike prior studies of the weekend effect, this study included multiple specific markers of patients' illness severity as well as hospital workload. Investigators found higher mortality associated with being admitted to the hospital during weekends compared to weekdays, but a significant proportion of the observed weekend effect was explained by severity of patient illness. They used three measures to approximate hospital workload: total number of admissions, net admissions (subtracting discharges from admissions), and percentage of beds occupied. None of these workload measures was associated with mortality. The authors conclude that differences in illness severity rather than health care team staffing explain the weekend effect. A recent PSNet interview discussed the weekend effect in health care.
Li L, Rothwell PM, Study OV. BMJ. 2016;353:i2648.
The weekend effect refers to the fact that mortality for several common conditions is higher in patients admitted on weekends compared to weekdays. While the mechanism for this effect is unclear, it likely varies for different disease processes. For example, prior studies have postulated that a weekend effect exists for patients with acute stroke. However, this study analyzed a large British database and found that many patients with a history of stroke who were later hospitalized for other reasons had their admission diagnosis inaccurately documented as acute stroke. This inaccuracy occurred more frequently in patients admitted on weekdays. Because the weekday admissions included many patients who were hospitalized for less morbid conditions, mortality appeared lower for patients admitted on weekdays than on weekends. When data was reanalyzed to include only those patients with a true acute stroke, no weekend effect was found. This study demonstrates the limitations of administrative data in analyzing patient safety issues.
Murphy DR, Wu L, Thomas EJ, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2015;33:3560-7.
Trigger tools are algorithms that prompt clinicians to investigate a potential adverse event. These tools are in routine practice for detection of adverse drug events and have been used to identify diagnostic delays. Investigators randomized physicians to either no intervention or to receive triggers related to cancer diagnosis; each trigger was an abnormal diagnostic test result for which follow-up testing is recommended. Delays in acting on abnormal test results are a known cause of adverse events. Sending reminders to physicians based on the trigger process led to higher rates of recommended diagnostic evaluation completion and a shorter time to completion for two of the three studied conditions. These promising results suggest that trigger tools could play a role in improving diagnosis across a range of conditions.
Starmer AJ, Spector ND, Srivastava R, et al. New Engl J Med. 2014;371:1803-1812.
The number of handoffs a patient experiences while hospitalized has almost certainly increased at academic institutions after the implementation of duty hour restrictions, posing a significant threat to patient safety. In response, The Joint Commission required that all hospitals maintain a standardized approach to handoff communication, and in 2010 the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education required that all residents receive formal handoff training. This multicenter study demonstrates that implementation of a standardized handoff bundle—which included a mnemonic ("I-PASS") for standardized oral and written signouts, formal training in handoff communication, faculty development, and efforts to ensure sustainability—was associated with a 23% relative reduction in the incidence of preventable adverse events across 9 participating pediatric residency programs. This improvement was achieved through a very high level of resident engagement in the revised handoff process, but did not negatively affect resident workflow. This rigorously designed and analyzed study establishes the I-PASS model as the gold standard for effective clinical handoffs and demonstrates the value of methodologically stringent approaches to addressing patient safety issues. A case of a delayed diagnosis due to poor handoffs is discussed in a past AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
Starmer AJ, Sectish TC, Simon DW, et al. JAMA. 2013;310:2262-2270.
Handoff improvement is a national patient safety priority. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education now requires residency programs to provide formal handoff education to trainees. This study evaluated the implementation of an inpatient handoff bundle for pediatric resident physicians. The multifaceted intervention included team training, standardized communication, electronic documentation, and new team handoff structures. In the uncontrolled, before-and-after analyses, medical errors and preventable adverse events decreased substantially. The intervention did not adversely affect resident workflow. Residents were found to spend more time in direct contact with patients in the post-intervention period. A related editorial notes that this study presents promising evidence that improving handoffs can reduce patient harm.
Feigenbaum P, Neuwirth E, Trowbridge L, et al. Med Care. 2012;50:599-605.
Preventing readmissions after hospital discharge is a national policy priority. The Partnership for Patients has established a goal of reducing preventable readmissions by 20% by 2013, and hospitals now face financial penalties for excess readmission rates. However, the proportion of readmissions that is truly preventable remains unclear, as prior studies have found that only 1 in 5 readmissions may be preventable. This case series from the integrated Kaiser Permanente system found that nearly half of their 30-day readmissions were at least possibly preventable (with 11% being completely preventable). Most readmissions had multiple contributing causes, and interestingly, use of strategies to prevent readmissions such as postdischarge telephone calls and early primary care follow-up appointments varied widely across the 18 hospitals in the study. A potentially preventable readmission due to a medication error is discussed in an AHRQ WebM&M commentary.