Lam BD, Bourgeois FC, Dong ZJ, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:685-694.
Providing patients access to their medical records can improve patient engagement and error identification. A survey of patients and families found that about half of adult patients and pediatric families who perceived a serious mistake in their ambulatory care notes reported it, but identified several barriers to reporting (e.g. no clear reporting mechanism, lack of perceived support).
Mangrum R, Stewart MD, Gifford DR, et al. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2020;21:1587-1591.e2.
Building upon earlier work, the authors engaged a technical expert panel to reach consensus on a definition for omissions of care in nursing homes. The article details the terms and concepts included in (and excluded from) the proposed definition, provides examples of omissions of care, intended uses (e.g., to guide quality improvement activities or training and education), and describes the implications of the definition for clinical practice, policy, and research.
A 52-year old women presented to the emergency department with a necrotizing soft tissue infection (necrotizing fasciitis) after undergoing cosmetic abdominoplasty (‘tummy tuck’) elsewhere. A lack of communication and disputes between the Emergency Medicine, Emergency General Surgery and Plastic Surgery teams about what service was responsible for the patient’s care led to delays in treatment. These delays allowed the infection to progress, ultimately requiring excision of a large area of skin and soft tissue.
Denson JL, Knoeckel J, Kjerengtroen S, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;29:250-259.
Handoffs are a vulnerable time for patients in which inadequate communication between providers can contribute to adverse outcomes; end-of-rotation handoffs have been found to put patients at even greater risk. Standardizing handoffs has been shown to improve patient safety. This single-center pilot study examined the impact of an ICU handoff intervention consisting of an in-person bedside handoff, a checklist, nursing involvement, and an education session. The authors found that the intervention was feasible to implement with high fidelity and did not improve length of stay or mortality.
This Primer provides an overview of the history and current status of the patient safety field and key definitions and concepts. It links to other Patient Safety Primers that discuss the concepts in more detail.
Seen in the emergency department, a man with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus had not taken insulin for 3 days. His blood glucose levels were in the 800s with an anion-gap acidosis and positive beta hydroxybutyrate. While awaiting an ICU bed for treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, the patient received fluids, an insulin drip was started, and blood glucose levels were monitored hourly. When lab results showed he was improving, the team decided to convert his insulin drip to subcutaneous long-acting insulin.
Triller D, Myrka A, Gassler J, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2018;44:630-640.
Patients prescribed high-risk medications, including anticoagulants, are at increased risk for adverse drug events and may be particularly vulnerable during care transitions. This study describes how a multidisciplinary panel of anticoagulation experts used an iterative consensus-building process to determine what information should be communicated to relevant providers for all patients on anticoagulation undergoing a transition in care.
When patients in two cases did not receive complete preanesthetic evaluation, problems with intubation ensued. In the first case, an anesthesiologist went to evaluate a morbidly obese patient scheduled for hysteroscopy. As the patient was donning her hospital gown behind a closed curtain, he waited but left without performing the preoperative assessment because the morning surgery list was overbooked and he had many other patients to see. Once in the operating room, he discovered on chart review that the woman had a history of gastroesophageal reflux.
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.
D'Angelo R, Mejabi O. Am J Clin Pathol. 2016;146:8-17.
Mistakes in laboratory specimen labeling can contribute to diagnostic delay and error. This commentary describes an improvement initiative that enhanced teamwork between a pathology and surgical unit and applied Lean methodologies to redesign specimen labeling processes and reduce errors and inefficiencies over a 2-year period.
Boutwell A, Bourgoin A , Maxwell J, et al. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; September 2016. AHRQ Publication No. 16-0047-EF.
This toolkit provides information for hospitals to help reduce preventable readmissions among Medicaid patients. Building on hospital experience with utilizing the materials since 2014, this updated guide explains how to determine root causes for readmissions, evaluate existing interventions, develop a set of improvement strategies, and optimize care transition processes.
Puvaneswaralingam S, Ross D. BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2016;5.
Boarding patients as they transfer between wards can compromise patient safety. This commentary reviews how an otolaryngology ward implemented a simple cognitive aid to improve patient record review, information sharing, and team communication. The authors report the results of the project and how they intend to use plan-do-study-act cycles to refine the process.
Handoffs are comprised of a multitude of steps that are prone to communication error. This commentary describes how a hospital drew from Lean Six Sigma concepts to develop and implement a standardized handoff process. The effort achieved improvements and established a concrete method for nurses to apply safe communication and data sharing principles in the perioperative environment.
Lyratzopoulos G, Wardle J, Rubin G. BMJ. 2014;349:g7400.
Past studies have found that delays in cancer diagnosis are common and harmful. Suggesting that such delays are not always due to error, this commentary reviews how diagnostic difficulty can lead to multiple consultations and hinder timely diagnosis of cancer in primary care.
This article provides an overview of patient safety issues in audiology such as diagnostic error and incomplete documentation. The author reviews steps individual clinicians can take to respond to errors and malpractice claims.
London, UK: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; June 2014.
This investigation outlines how inadequate care contributed to the death of a child who developed sepsis while receiving treatment for the flu. Describing failures associated with telephone triage and out-of-hours service in the course of his care, the report recommends organization-wide efforts to improve safety, including providing guidelines for staff and support or families.
Johnston M, Arora S, Anderson O, et al. Ann Surg. 2015;261:831-838.
In most training settings, the first physician point-of-contact for a patient with clinical deterioration is a junior doctor who must evaluate the situation and decide whether to alert a supervising physician—a process termed escalation of care. Delays in this process can lead to critical failure-to-rescue events, which may result in preventable deaths. This study used ethnographic observations, a risk assessment survey, and a formal health care failure mode and effect and analysis to examine the escalation of care process on surgical wards at three London hospitals. The investigation uncovered 18 hazardous failures, with multiple underlying root causes, including outdated communication technology, insufficient staffing, and challenges related to hierarchy. An extensive list of recommendations to improve these processes is included. A prior AHRQ WebM&M commentary discussed some of the pitfalls of hierarchy and the "surgical personality."
This qualitative analysis of medical students' perceptions revealed persistent concerns related to the safety of transitions in care, despite much attention and recommendations related to improving handoffs. The most common cause of frustration among students was poor communication, which included unclear discussion about responsibilities, incomplete explanation regarding patients' needs, and inadequate identification of health care workers involved with the handoff.
Following a hospitalization for Clostridium Difficile–associated diarrhea, a woman with HIV/AIDS and B-cell lymphoma was discharged with a prescription for a 14-day course of oral vancomycin solution. At her regular retail pharmacy, she was unable to obtain the medicine, and while awaiting coverage approval, she received no treatment. Her symptoms soon returned, prompting an emergency department visit where she was diagnosed with toxic megacolon.
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