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Georgia Galanou Luchen, Pharm. D., is the Director of Member Relations at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). In this role, she leads initiatives related to community pharmacy practitioners and their impact throughout the care continuum. We spoke with her about different types of community pharmacists and the role they play in ensuring patient safety. 

Trost SL, Beauregard JL, Smoots AN, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2021;40(10):1551-1559.
Missed diagnosis of mental health conditions can lead to serious adverse outcomes. Researchers evaluated data from 2008 to 2017 from 14 state Maternal Mortality Review Committees and found that 11% of pregnancy-related deaths were due to mental health conditions. A substantial proportion of people with a pregnancy-related mental health cause of death had a history of depression or past/current substance use. Researchers conclude that addressing gaps maternal mental health care is essential to improving maternal safety.

Farnborough, UK: Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; September 9, 2021.

In-depth failure investigations provide improvement insights for individuals and organizations alike. This report analyzes a collection of UK National Health Service incident examinations and provides recommendations for improvement on themes related to care transitions and access, decision making, communication, and point-of-care activity.

ECHO-Care Transitions (ECHO-CT) intends to ensure continuity of care and alleviate the risk of patient safety issues, notably medication errors, occurring because of hospital transition. With funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) adapted Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) to connect receiving multidisciplinary skilled nursing facility (SNF) teams with a multidisciplinary team at the discharging hospital. Within one week of discharge, hospital providers discuss each patient’s transitional and medical issues with providers at the SNF using videoconferencing technology. The innovation has successfully reduced patient readmission and SNF length of stay.

The MOQI seeks to reduce avoidable hospitalization among nursing home residents by placing an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) within the care team with the goal of early identification of resident decline. In addition to the APRN, the MOQI involves nursing home teams focused on use of tools to better detect acute changes in resident status, smoother transitions between hospitals and nursing homes, end-of-life care, and use of health information technology to facilitate communication with peers. As a result of the innovation, resident hospitalizations declined. Funding for this innovation was originally provided to the University of Missouri via a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) demonstration grant. Given the success of the innovation, when the grant funding expired, the model and lessons learned from the initiative were transferred to NewPath Health Solutions, LLC, to ensure continued dissemination.

Reece JC, Neal EFG, Nguyen P, et al. BMC Cancer. 2021;21(1):373.
Lack of timely follow-up of test results is an ongoing patient safety problem in primary care and can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses. This systematic review concluded that follow-up of abnormal mammograms in primary care is suboptimal. Findings from included studies indicate that ethnic minorities and women with lower educational attainment were more likely to have inadequate follow-up. Factors influencing follow-up include physician-patient miscommunication, alert fatigue, difficulty obtaining test results or patient records, and logistical barriers. The authors suggest adopting interventions focused on mitigating factors that negatively impact follow-up, such as patient navigation and case management.

Project Nurture provides patients with substance use disorder (SUD) prenatal care, inpatient maternity care, postpartum care, and infant pediatric care. Women enrolled in the program receive Level 1 addiction treatment (i.e., outpatient services) from an integrated care team that includes MDs, nurse practitioners, doulas, certified recovery mentors, certified alcohol and drug counselors, and social workers and other mental health professionals. If indicated, they can also receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using methadone or buprenorphine. Project Nurture’s model is to engage patients in prenatal care and drug treatment as early in pregnancy as possible, provide inpatient care for their delivery, and then follow them and their infants for a year postpartum providing case management and advocacy services throughout.

Russ-Jara AL, Luckhurst CL, Dismore RA, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2021;36(8):2212-2220.
Resolving medication errors often requires coordination between different care providers. This qualitative study examined medication safety incidents at one VA hospital and found that health care providers rely on cognitive decentering, collaborative decision-making, back-up behaviors, and contingency planning to coordinate care during medication safety incidents. The primary barriers to care coordination identified were role ambiguity, breakdowns in care, and electronic health record-related challenges.

Morris S, O’Hara J. Pharmacuetical Journal. February 26, 2021.

It is a challenge to track medical errors that take place in the home environment, yet it is understood they happen and can cause harm. This article discusses errors that parents make in providing medications to their children. The authors advocate for engaging parents as partners to improve care safety in the home.

Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. January 5, 2021. Report No. 20-01521-48.

 

This investigation examined care coordination, screening and other factors that contributed to a patient death by suicide shortly after discharge from a Veteran’s Hospital. Event reporting, disclosure and evaluation gaps were identified as process weaknesses to be addressed. 

The team at Geisinger sought to develop an outpatient addiction medicine specialty program that incorporated medication-assisted treatment (MAT), peer support, and connection to community counseling services that also uses data-driven insights to monitor and improve patient outcomes. As a result of this program, they have been able to reduce all-cause mortality among these patients, increase patient engagement in substance use disorder treatment, and have seen a reduction in the prescription quantities of controlled substances.

Ricci-Cabello I, Gangannagaripalli J, Mounce LTA, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(1):e20-e27.
Patient safety in primary care is an emerging focus. This cross-sectional study across primary care clinics in England explored the main factors contributing to patient-reported harm experiences. Factors included incidents related to communication, care coordination, and incorrect or delayed; diagnosis and/or treatment.

After a breast mass was identified by a physician assistant during a routine visit, a 60-year-old woman received a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The radiology assessment was challenging due to dense breast tissue and ultimately interpreted as “probably benign” findings. When the patient returned for follow-up 5 months later, the mass had increased in size and she was referred for a biopsy.

Wiley KK, Hilts KE, Ancker JS, et al. JAMIA Open. 2020;3(4):611-618.
Optimal use of health information exchange approaches such as event notification systems may be influenced by organizational capabilities. This study found that healthcare organizations whose positive perceptions of event alerts fit within existing workflows were more likely to use event notification services to improve care coordination and care quality.
Avery AJ, Sheehan C, Bell B, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30(12):961-976.
Patient safety in primary care is an emerging focus for research and policy. The authors of this study retrospectively reviewed case notes from 14,407 primary care patients in the United Kingdom. Their analysis identified three primary types of avoidable harm in primary care – problems with diagnoses, medication-related problems, and delayed referrals. The authors suggest several methods to reduce avoidable harm in primary care, including optimizing existing information technology, enhanced team communication and coordination, and greater continuity of care.
Keen J, Abdulwahid MA, King N, et al. BMJ Open. 2020;10(10):e036608.
Health information technology has the potential to improve patient safety in both inpatient and outpatient settings. This systematic review explored the effect of technology networks across health systems (e.g., linking patient records across different organizations) on care coordination and medication reconciliation for older adults living at home. The authors identified several barriers to use of such networks but did not identify robust evidence on their association with safety-related outcomes.
Lai AY. J Am Board Fam Med. 2020;33(5):754-764.
This study used qualitative methods to compare how patients versus front clinicians, administrators and staff conceptualize patient safety in primary care. Findings indicate that work function-based conceptualizations of patient safety (e.g., good communication and providing appropriate, timely care) better reflect the experiences of healthcare personnel and patients rather than domain-based conceptualizations (e.g., diagnosis, care transitions, and medications).

After a failed induction at 36 weeks, a 26-year-old woman underwent cesarean delivery which was complicated by significant postpartum hemorrhage. The next day, the patient complained of severe perineal and abdominal pain, which the obstetric team attributed to prolonged pushing during labor. The team was primarily concerned about hypotension, which was thought to be due to hypovolemia from peri-operative blood loss. After several hours, the patient was transferred to the medical intensive care unit (ICU) with persistent hypotension and severe abdominal and perineal pain. She underwent surge

Sundwall DN, Munger MA, Tak CR, et al. Health Equity. 2020;4(1):430-437.
This study surveyed 9,206 adults across the United States about their perceptions of medical errors occurring in ambulatory care settings. Thirty-six percent of respondents perceived that their doctor has ever made a mistake, provided an incorrect diagnosis, or given an incorrect (or delayed) treatment. According to these findings, patient-perceived medical errors and harms occurred most commonly in women and those in poor health with comorbid conditions.