Root cause analysis is a commonly used tool to identify systems-related factors that contributed to an adverse event. This study assessed a system-based approach, (i.e., collaborative case reviews (CCR) co-led by radiology and an institutional patient safety program) to identify contributing factors and explore the strength of recommended actions in the radiology department at a large academic medical center. Stronger action items, such as standardization of processes, were implemented in 41% of events, and radiology had higher completion rates than other hospital departments.
Richmond RT, McFadzean IJ, Vallabhaneni P. BMJ Open Qual. 2021;10:e001142.
Timely completion of discharge summaries can improve handoffs with outpatient physicians and ensure communication of potential patient safety problems. This quality improvement project used an established change model to improve the rate of discharge summary completed within 24 hours from less than 10%, to 84% within 2 months.
Lindblad M, Unbeck M, Nilsson L, et al. BMC Health Serv Res. 2020;20:289.
This study used a trigger tool to retrospectively identify and characterize no-harm incidents affecting adult patients in home healthcare settings in Sweden. The most common incidents identified by the trigger tool were falls without injury, medication management incidents, and moderate pain. Common contributing factors included delayed, erroneous, or incomplete nursing care and treatment.
Jarrett T, Cochran J, Baus A. J Nurs Care Qual. 2020;35:233-239.
The Medications at Transitions and Clinical Handoffs Toolkit (MATCH) provides strategies to implement and improve medication reconciliation in healthcare. This article describes the implementation of MATCH in a rural primary care clinic and the resulting improvements in medication reconciliation workflows.
Pfeiffer Y, Zimmermann C, Schwappach DLB. J Patient Saf. 2020;Publish Ahead of Print.
This study examined patient safety issues stemming from health information technology (HIT)-related information management hazards. The authors identified eleven thematic groups describing such hazards occurring at a systemic level, such as fragmentation of patient information, “information islands” (e.g., nurses and physicians have separate information sets despite the same HIT system), and inadequate information structures (e.g., no drug interaction warning integrated in the chemotherapy prescribing tool).
Malterud K, Aamland A, Fosse A. Scand J Prim Health Care. 2020;38.
Using qualitative analysis, this study explored the experiences of general practitioners in Norway with horizontal task shifting (defined as tasks shifted between equivalent professionals, such as hospital specialists and other specialists) and whether task shifting increased patient safety risks. The study identified several types of adverse events associated with horizontal task shifting, such as delays in diagnosis, overdiagnosis, and reduced access to care.
Williams S, Fiumara K, Kachalia A, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Saf. 2020;46:44-50.
A lack of closed-loop feedback systems has been identified as one contributor to underreporting of patient safety events. This paper describes one large academic medical center’s implementation of a Feedback to Reporter program in ambulatory care, which aimed to ensure feedback on safety reports is provided to reporting staff by managers. At baseline, 50% of staff who requested feedback ultimately received it; after three years, the rate of feedback to reporters had increased to 90%.
Dinsdale E, Hannigan A, O'Connor R, et al. Fam Pract. 2019.
Clear communication between primary care physicians and the providers to whom they refer patients has important implications for achieving accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans for patients. In this observational study, researchers included 6603 patients from 68 general medical practices in Ireland, randomly selecting 100 patients from each practice and excluding patients without complete records. They analyzed referral documentation and responses received from subspecialists as well as discharge summaries from hospitalizations over a 2-year period, compared with established national standards. Although 82% of referral letters included current medications, only 30% of response letters and discharge summaries contained medication changes and 33% had medication lists. The authors conclude that significant communication gaps exist between primary and secondary care and that further research is needed to understand how to address them. A past PSNet perspective discussed challenges associated with care transitions.
Jackson PD, Biggins MS, Cowan L, et al. Rehabil Nurs. 2016;41:135-48.
Transitions are a complicated and vulnerable time for patients, particularly for those with complex care needs. This review examines the literature around care transitions and insights from patient and family advisory councils. The authors recommend standardizing the process for veterans with complex conditions and suggest focus on the use of real-time information exchange, documented care plans, and engaging patients and their families in transitions.
In response to a recent investigation raising concerns about inaccurate reporting of wait-time data, this commentary relates barriers to improving patient safety, such as overuse of performance measures. The authors describe approaches to augment safety, such as narrowing down performance measures to address the most significant concerns and engaging private health care organizations in improvement projects.
Hanson JL, Stephens MB, Pangaro LN, et al. BMC Health Serv Res. 2012;12:407.
Clinicians, nurses, ancillary staff, patients, and health care administrators provided their perspectives regarding the characteristics of high quality outpatient clinical documentation for this qualitative study.
Amalberti R, Brami J. BMJ Qual Saf. 2012;21:729-36.
The systems approach to analyzing adverse events emphasizes how active errors (those made by individuals) and latent errors (underlying system flaws) contribute to preventable harm. Adverse events in ambulatory care may arise from an especially complex array of latent errors. This paper explores the role of time management problems, which the authors term "tempos," as a contributor to errors in ambulatory care. Through a review of closed malpractice claims, the authors identify 5 tempos that can affect the risk of an adverse event: disease tempo (the expected disease course), patient tempo (timing of complaints and adherence to recommendations), office tempo (including the availability of clinicians and test results), system tempo (such as access to specialists or emergency services), and access to knowledge. The role of these tempos in precipitating diagnostic errors and communication errors is discussed through analysis of the patterns of errors in malpractice claims. A preventable adverse event caused by misunderstanding of disease tempo is discussed in this AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
Costa LL, Poe SS, Lee MC. J Nurs Care Qual. 2011;26:243-51.
This study provides a comparative description of two interventions to improve care transitions following hospital discharge. Home nurse visits uncovered 62% more medication discrepancies than those detected by telephone interview.
Grossman E, Phillips RS, Weingart SN. J Patient Saf. 2010;6:172-179.
Tests pending after hospital discharge or following a clinic visit continue to challenge most health care systems. This study implemented a paper-based system to follow up abnormal mammograms and monitored provider responses to those reminders. Based on a report of abnormal mammograms generated by the radiology department, a practice administrator sent a letter to each provider with a copy of the report and a set of questions on behalf of their quality improvement committee. More than 90% of providers responded to the fail-safe reminders, 8% were unaware of the abnormal test, and there was no follow-up plan in place for 3% of cases. Less experienced providers were more likely to be unaware of abnormal mammograms and many lapses were noted in the context of care transitions. The authors conclude that their paper-based system is feasible and valuable but requires full engagement of providers in the process.
Failure to adequately follow up on test results is a known problem after hospital discharge, in primary care settings, and within computerized systems. This study reviewed more than 5400 patient medical records from 19 community-based and 4 academic primary care practices and discovered a 7.1% rate of failure to inform (or document informing). Interestingly, investigators found that partial electronic health records (EHRs), with a mix of paper and electronic systems, were associated with higher failure rates than those practices without an EHR or with a complete EHR. Variations in failure rates among practices, ranging from 0% to 26%, suggest that best practices can make a significant difference. A past AHRQ WebM&M commentary discussed the impact of delayed notification for a test result following hospital discharge.
Lesselroth B, Adams S, Felder R, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2009;35:264-70.
This study used an innovative approach to involving patients in safety efforts by using an interactive kiosk paired with the medication list from the electronic health record. When patients presented for a clinic visit, the kiosk presented their presumed medication list along with pill pictures, and patients had to indicate if they were taking the medication. This method successfully identified medication discrepancies and reduced the time spent by staff in reviewing medications. Ensuring medication reconciliation in ambulatory care has been particularly problematic for patients with low health literacy. This novel strategy may represent an effective, patient-centered approach to this problem.
Snow V, Beck D, Budnitz T, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2009;24:971-976.
This policy statement describes ten principles developed to address quality gaps in transitions of care between inpatient and outpatient settings. Recommendations include coordinating clinicians, having a transition record, standardizing communication formats, and using evidence-based metrics to monitor outcomes.
Lo HG, Matheny ME, Seger DL, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2009;16:66-71.
"Alert fatigue" refers to the tendency of clinicians to ignore safety alerts—for example, warnings about potential drug interactions—if alerts are too frequent or perceived to be clinically irrelevant. However, in this study, less intrusive alerts that did not require physician response were not effective at encouraging use of recommended laboratory monitoring.
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