The Revised Safer Dx Instrument provides a standardized list of questions to help users retrospectively identify and assess the likelihood of a missed diagnosis in a healthcare episode. Results of the assessment are intended for use in system-level safety improvement efforts, clinician feedback, and patient safety research.
The instrument consists of a series of questions that address five aspects of the diagnostic process: (1) the patient-provider encounter (history, physical examination, ordering tests/referrals based on assessment); (2) performance and interpretation of diagnostic tests; (3) follow-up and tracking of diagnostic information over time; (4) subspecialty and referral-specific factors; and (5) patient-related factors.1 To answer the questions, the evaluator collects data from comprehensive electronic health records including information on a patient’s medical history, examination information, diagnostic test interpretation, and follow-up testing and diagnostic assessment. If the assessment indicates there was a likely diagnostic error (defined as a missed opportunity in diagnosis), users have the option to complete an additional process breakdown assessment as a guide designed to help identify factors contributing to the potential missed opportunity.
The original tool, the Safer Dx Instrument, was validated in a primary care setting, and results were published in 2016. In this study, the instrument yielded overall accuracy of 84%.2 A study published in 2017 on use of the tool in a pediatric intensive care unit found the tool had inter-rater agreement of 93.6% (k, 0.72).3 The project team made minor revisions to the original tool to address feedback from the pilot studies, as well as from several national experts. Since the release of the revised iteration of the tool (i.e., the Revised Safer Dx Instrument), use of condition-specific adaptations of the tool (e.g., Safer Stroke Dx) have found it to yield accurate results.4,5
For the best results, the project team suggests having multiple reviewers complete the assessment and discuss findings. Additionally, sites that wish to implement the tool may benefit from an existing safety environment that is supportive, with elements such as a patient safety culture, existing safety programs, and adequate staffing resources to implement the tool, including a multidisciplinary team with a dedicated safety analyst.
Cohen M, Degnan D, McDonnell P, eds. Patient Saf. 2022;4(s1):1-45
Articles contained in this library reflect the impact of the pandemic on patient harm in the acute care setting.
Bryant A. UpToDate. September 13, 2021.
The medication-use process is highly complex with many steps and risk points for error, and those errors are a key target for improving safety. This Library reflects a curated selection of PSNet content focused on medication and drug errors. Included resources explore understanding harms from preventable medication use, medication safety improvement strategies, and resources for design.
Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Medication Safety Alerts. January 3, 2022.
Diagnostic error has been increasingly recognized as an important and evolving patient safety issue. This Primer applies well-established principles of diagnostic error and improvement of diagnostic accuracy to the topic of COVID-19.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Stratification Tool for Opioid Risk Mitigation (STORM) decision support system and targeted prevention program were designed to help mitigate risk factors for overdose and suicide among veterans who are prescribed opioids and/or with opioid use disorder (OUD) and are served by the VHA.1 Veterans, particularly those prescribed opioids, experience overdose and suicide events at roughly twice the rate of the general population.1,2
The STORM decision support system uses data extracted from VHA electronic medical records and predictive analytics to facilitate the identification of patients at high risk of experiencing overdose and suicide events. The STORM decision support system can also review risk factors for patients who are being considered for prescription opioid therapy. STORM prioritizes patients for monitoring and intervention according to their modeled risk and aids clinicians by displaying a patient’s risk factors and associated evidence-based risk mitigation interventions. Note that the target population does not include patients with OUD in medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Many patients with OUD and/or in prescription opioid therapy have complex medical and psychosocial needs (e.g., painful conditions, mental health challenges), resulting in interactions with multiple care providers. To address the complexity of a patient’s case, STORM aims to provide a holistic intervention that includes multiple care providers and accounts for multiple parts of the patient’s history and medical profile.3 Under the STORM-based targeted prevention program, an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, including those with expertise in pain and behavioral health, conduct case reviews for patients identified to be at the highest risk of overdose and/or suicide and implement treatment changes or share recommendations with the patients‘ providers.
The VHA completed a three-year randomized program evaluation of the implementation of the national STORM-based targeted prevention program. Preliminary results indicate that mandating that very high-risk patients receive an interdisciplinary review was associated with a decrease in all-cause mortality among identified patients in the 127 days after identification by the decision support system.4
The STORM decision support system and targeted prevention program were developed and implemented in the context of relatively high rates of opioid prescribing to veterans and overall rising opioid-involved overdose mortality in the U.S. population. In the last 10 years, overdose deaths have more than doubled in the United States.5 As one response to the problem, the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act requires the VHA to improve opioid therapy strategies and to ensure responsible prescribing practices. STORM is one of several VHA overdose prevention initiatives that include the distribution of naloxone, efforts to reduce opioid prescribing, and introduction of pain management clinical review and support teams.5
An 18-year-old man with a history of untreated depression and suicide attempts (but no history of psychiatric hospitalizations) was seen in the ED for suicidal ideation after recent gun purchase. Due to suicidal ideation, he was placed on safety hold and a psychiatric consultation was requested. The psychiatry team recommended discharge with outpatient therapy; he was discharged with outpatient resources, the crisis hotline phone number, and strict return precautions.