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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 162 Results
Fact Sheet/FAQs
Horsham, PA; Institute for Safe Medication Practices: February 2019.
Drawing on information gathered from the ISMP Medication Errors Reporting Program, this fact sheet provides a comprehensive list of commonly confused medication names, including look-alike and sound-alike name pairs. Drug name confusion can easily lead to medication errors, and the ISMP has recommended interventions such as the use of tall man lettering in order to prevent such errors. An error due to sound-alike medications is discussed in this AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
Reeve E, Wolff JL, Skehan M, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178:1673-1680.
Deprescribing or stopping unnecessary medications is an important strategy for reducing medication-related harm in older adults. A group of 1981 Medicare beneficiaries reported broad support (92%) for stopping at least one of their medications if their clinician determined it was safe. A WebM&M commentary provides in-depth recommendations to achieve safe prescribing in older patients.
Pérez T, Moriarty F, Wallace E, et al. BMJ. 2018;363:k4524.
Elderly patients are at greater risk of experiencing adverse drug events than the adult population as a whole. Older patients are more likely to be frail, have more medical conditions, and are physiologically more sensitive to injury from certain classes of medication. Researchers examined a large cohort of Irish outpatients age 65 and older to determine the relationship between hospital discharge and potentially inappropriate medication prescribing. Approximately half of the 38,229 patients studied were prescribed a medication in contravention to the STOPP criteria. The risk of potentially inappropriate prescribing increased after hospital discharge, even when using multiple statistical techniques to control for medical complexity. An accompanying editorial delineates various vulnerabilities that predispose older patients to adverse events during the transition from hospital to home. A recent PSNet perspective discussed community pharmacists' role in promoting medication safety.
Sharma AE, Rivadeneira NA, Barr-Walker J, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2018;37:1813-1820.
Patient and family engagement efforts can affect health care quality and safety. This review examined the research on patient engagement efforts and found evidence of robust examinations of patient engagement related to patient self-management of anticoagulation medications. However, there was mixed-quality evidence on patient involvement in medication administration errors, documentation and scheduling accuracy, hospital readmissions, and health care–associated infections. They recommend areas of research needed to guide the application of patient engagement strategies.
Ratwani RM, Savage E, Will A, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2018;37:1752-1759.
Although health information technology has been shown to improve patient safety, problems with implementation and user interface design persist. Unintended consequences associated with the use of electronic health record (EHR) and computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems remain a safety concern. Pediatric patients may be particularly vulnerable to medication errors associated with EHR usability. Researchers examined 9000 safety event reports over a 5-year period from 3 pediatric health care facilities and found that 5079 events were related to the EHR and medication. Of these, 3243 identified EHR usability as contributing to the event, 609 of which reached the patient. Incorrect dosing was the most common medication error detected across the three facilities. A previous WebM&M commentary highlighted the unintended consequences of CPOE.
Barr D, Epps QJ. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2019;47:146-154.
Anticoagulants are commonly prescribed medications that have high potential for harm if administered incorrectly. This review summarizes common errors at the prescribing, dispensing, and administration phases of direct oral anticoagulant therapy. The authors suggest team-based strategies—such as process assessment, policy development, and medication reconciliation—to prevent adverse drug events associated with direct oral anticoagulants.
Howard R, Fry B, Gunaseelan V, et al. JAMA Surg. 2019;154:e184234.
This observational study found that when patients were prescribed a higher number of opioid pills following surgery, they self-administered more pills, although most patients did consume all of the pills they received. The authors suggest collecting patient-reported opioid consumption data in order to make opioid prescribing safer.
Martin P, Tamblyn R, Benedetti A, et al. JAMA. 2018;320:1889-1898.
This randomized controlled trial tested a pharmacist-led educational intervention at community pharmacies. Intervention patients received a brochure about potentially inappropriate medications. Discontinuation of potentially harmful medications increased among older adults compared to usual pharmacy care, suggesting that community pharmacies can play a significant role in medication safety.
Meisenberg BR, Grover J, Campbell C, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1:e182908.
Opioid deaths are a major public health and patient safety hazard. This multimodal, health care system-level intervention to reduce opioid overprescribing consisted of changes to the electronic health record, patient education, and provider education and oversight. Opioid prescribing decreased substantially (58%) systemwide with no discernible decrement in patient satisfaction.
Organizational Policy/Guidelines
Emerging Classic
Billstein-Leber M, Carrillo CJD, Cassano AT, et al. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2018;75:1493-1517.
Pharmacists can play an important role in medication error reduction efforts across health care systems. This document provides recommendations and best practices for health-system pharmacists to improve safety throughout the medication-use process.
Scott IA, Pillans PI, Barras M, et al. Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2018;9:559-573.
The prescribing of potentially inappropriate medications is a quality and safety concern. This narrative review found that information technologies equipped with decision support tools were modestly effective in reducing inappropriate prescribing of medications, more so in the hospital than the ambulatory environment.
Cooper J, Williams H, Hibbert P, et al. Bull World Health Organ. 2018;96:498-505.
The World Health Organization International Classification for Patient Safety enables measurement of safety incident severity. In this study, researchers describe how they adapted the system to primary care. Their harm severity classification emphasizes psychological harm, hospitalizations, near misses, and uncertain outcomes in addition to traditional markers of harm.
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.
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.
Rodriguez-Gonzalez CG, Herranz-Alonso A, Escudero-Vilaplana V, et al. J Eval Clin Pract. 2019;25:28-35.
Pharmacy robots are now commonly used in hospitals for dispensing medications. Conducted at a Spanish hospital, this study found that use of pharmacy robots reduced medication dispensing errors and improved staff efficiency. The role of a pharmacy robot in a serious medication error is explored in a book that examined the effects of technological change on the health care system.
Wong A, Plasek JM, Montecalvo SP, et al. Pharmacotherapy. 2018;38:822-841.
Natural language processing (NLP) can efficiently analyze large narrative data sets to identify adverse events. Exploring the application of NLP to reduce medication errors, this AHRQ-funded review describes challenges associated with using NLP to extract information from clinical sources and highlights how engaging pharmacists in developing NLP systems can improve medication safety.
Stucke RS, Kelly JL, Mathis KA, et al. JAMA Surg. 2018;153:1105-1110.
Many states are implementing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in an attempt to curb the ongoing opioid epidemic. This single-center study examined the effect of a New Hampshire policy that mandates clinicians use a PDMP and an opioid risk assessment tool prior to prescribing opioids. No impact was found on overall opioid prescribing rates. However, a recent state-level analysis found that states who implemented a PDMP had lower opioid prescribing rates compared to states without PDMPs. A PSNet perspective discussed the factors that contributed to the opioid epidemic and proposed solutions.
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.
Doctor JN, Nguyen A, Lev R, et al. Science (1979). 2018;361:588-590.
High-risk opioid prescribing by providers contributes to opioid misuse. Prior studies have shown that patients frequently receive opioid prescriptions even if they have a history of overdose. In this randomized trial involving 861 providers prescribing opioids to 170 patients who experienced fatal overdose, providers in the intervention arm were notified about patients' deaths by the county medical examiner while those in the control arm were not. Researchers found that milligram morphine equivalents prescribed to the patients of providers who received the death notifications decreased by almost 10% in the 3-month period following the intervention. There were no significant changes in the prescribing patterns of the control group. An Annual Perspective discussed patient safety and opioid medications.