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Primers

Guides for key topics in patient safety through context, epidemiology, and relevant AHRQ PSNet content. The Patient Safety 101 Primer provides an overview of the patient safety field and covers key definitions and concepts.

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Debriefing is an important strategy for learning about and making improvements in individual, team, and system performance. It is one of the central learning tools in simulation training and is also recommended after significant clinical events.

Deprescribing is an intervention used to reduce the risk of adverse drug events (ADEs) that can result from polypharmacy. It is the process of supervised medication discontinuation or dose reduction to reduce potentially inappropriate medication (PIM... Read More

Nurses play a critical role in patient safety through their constant presence at the patient's bedside. However, staffing issues and suboptimal working conditions can impede a nurse’s ability to detect and prevent adverse events.

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Efforts to engage patients in safety efforts have focused on three areas: enlisting patients in detecting adverse events, empowering patients to ensure safe care, and emphasizing patient involvement as a means of improving the culture of safety.
Few medical errors are as terrifying as those that involve patients who have undergone surgery on the wrong body part, undergone the incorrect procedure, or had a procedure intended for another patient. These "wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors" (WSPEs) are rightly termed never events.
Long and unpredictable work hours have been a staple of medical training for centuries. However, little attention was paid to the patient safety effects of fatigue among residents until March 1984, when Libby Zion died due to a medication-prescribing error while under the care of residents in the midst of a 36-hour shift.
Popular media often depicts physicians as brilliant, intimidating, and condescending in equal measures. This stereotype, though undoubtedly dramatic and even amusing, obscures the fact that disruptive and unprofessional behavior by clinicians poses a definite threat to patient safety.
The vast majority of health care takes place in the outpatient, or ambulatory, setting, and a growing body of research has identified and characterized factors that influence safety in office practice, the types of errors commonly encountered in ambulatory care, and potential strategies for improving ambulatory safety.
Thousands of patients die every year due to diagnostic errors. While clinicians’ cognitive biases play a role in many diagnostic errors, underlying health care system problems also contribute to missed and delayed diagnoses.
Patient safety event reporting systems are ubiquitous in hospitals and are a mainstay of efforts to detect safety and quality problems. However, while event reports may highlight specific safety concerns, they do not provide insights into the epidemiology of safety problems.
Though a seemingly simple intervention, checklists have played a leading role in the most significant successes of the patient safety movement, including the near-elimination of central line–associated bloodstream infections in many intensive care units.
Discontinuity is an unfortunate but necessary reality of hospital care. No provider can stay in the hospital around the clock, creating the potential for errors when clinical information is transmitted incompletely or incorrectly between clinicians.
Initially developed to analyze industrial accidents, root cause analysis is now widely deployed as an error analysis tool in health care. A central tenet of RCA is to identify underlying problems that increase the likelihood of errors while avoiding the trap of focusing on mistakes by individuals.
Being discharged from the hospital can be dangerous for patients. Nearly 20% of patients experience an adverse event in the first 3 weeks after discharge, including medication errors, health care–associated infections, and procedural complications.
Computerized provider order entry systems ensure standardized, legible, and complete orders, and—especially when paired with decision support systems—have the potential to sharply reduce medication prescribing errors.
Although long accepted by clinicians as an inevitable hazard of hospitalization, recent efforts demonstrate that relatively simple measures can prevent the majority of health care–associated infections. As a result, hospitals are under intense pressure to reduce the burden of these infections.
Providing safe health care depends on highly trained individuals with disparate roles and responsibilities acting together in the best interests of the patient. The need for improved teamwork has led to the application of teamwork training principles, originally developed in aviation, to a variety of health care settings.
Many victims of medical errors never learn of the mistake, because the error is simply not disclosed. Physicians have traditionally shied away from discussing errors with patients, due to fear of precipitating a malpractice lawsuit and embarrassment and discomfort with the disclosure process.
The list of never events has expanded over time to include adverse events that are unambiguous, serious, and usually preventable. While most are rare, when never events occur, they are devastating to patients and indicate serious underlying organizational safety problems.
Rapid response teams represent an intuitively simple concept: when a patient demonstrates signs of imminent clinical deterioration, a team of providers is summoned to the bedside to immediately assess and treat the patient with the goal of preventing adverse clinical outcomes.
High-reliability organizations consistently minimize adverse events despite carrying out intrinsically hazardous work. Such organizations establish a culture of safety by maintaining a commitment to safety at all levels, from frontline providers to managers and executives.
Unintended inconsistencies in medication regimens occur with any transition in care. Medication reconciliation refers to the process of avoiding such inadvertent inconsistencies by reviewing the patient's current medication regimen and comparing it with the regimen being considered for the new setting of care.