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).
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.
Pandya C, Clarke T, Scarsella E, et al. J Oncol Pract. 2019;15:e480-e489.
Care transitions and handoffs represent a vulnerable time for patients, as failure to communicate important clinical information may occur with the potential for harm. In this pre–post study, researchers found that implementation of an electronic health record tool designed to improve the handoff between oncology clinic and infusion nurses was associated with a reduction in medication errors, shorter average patient waiting time, and better communication between nurses.
Herlihy M, Harcourt K, Fossa A, et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2019;134:128-137.
Prior research has shown that when patients have access to clinicians' notes, they may identify relevant safety concerns. In this study, 9550 obstetrics and gynecology patients were provided with access to their outpatient visit documentation. Almost 70% of eligible patients read one or more notes during the study period, but only 3.2% shared feedback through 232 electronic reports. Of patients who provided feedback, 27% identified errors in the documentation; provider reviewers determined that 75% of these could impact care.
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.
To transfer a man with possible sepsis to a hospital with subspecialty and critical care, a physician was unaware of a formal protocol and called a colleague at the academic medical center. The colleague secured a bed, and the patient was sent over. However, neither clinical data nor the details of the patient's current condition were transmitted to the hospital's transfer center, and the receiving physician booked a general ward bed rather than an ICU bed. When the patient arrived, his mentation was altered and breathing was rapid.
The operating room environment harbors particular patient safety hazards. Drawing from 1137 perioperative medication error reports submitted over a 1-year period, this analysis found that more than half of the recorded incidents reached the patient and the majority of those stemmed from communication breakdowns during transitions or handoffs. The authors provide recommendations to reduce risks of error, including using barcode medication administration, standardizing handoff procedures, and stocking prefilled syringes.
Craynon R, Hager DR, Reed M, et al. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2018;75:1486-1492.
Pharmacists are expanding their reach as stewards of medication safety into the front line of care. This project report describes the pilot testing of pharmacist involvement in development and review of medication orders in the discharge workflow. A substantive percentage of medication problems were prevented due to pharmacist engagement.
Gupta A, Harrod M, Quinn M, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2018;5:151-156.
This direct observation study of hospitalist teams on rounds and conducting follow-up work examined the interaction between systems problems and cognitive errors in diagnosis. Researchers found that information gaps related to electronic health records, challenges with handoffs, and time constraints all contributed to difficulties in diagnostic cognition. The authors suggest considering both systems and cognitive challenges to diagnosis in order to promote safety.
Barbieri AL, Fadare O, Fan L, et al. J Pathol Inform. 2018;9:8.
This secondary data analysis of electronic health record (EHR) messages addressed to pathologists uncovered gaps in clinician-to-clinician communication. A range of clinicians used the EHR to ask clinical questions of pathologists, and pathologists largely did not use the EHR message inbox. The authors suggest that design and implementation of electronic tools should anticipate and address these potential safety problems.
Gilliland N, Catherwood N, Chen S, et al. BMJ Open Qual. 2018;7:e000170.
Incomplete communication regarding patient information can diminish the safety of care delivery. This commentary describes how a quality improvement project applied plan–do–study–act cycles to enhance collection of patient data. Researchers developed, tested, and refined a ward round template in a United Kingdom urology service and increased compliance in the recording of patient care measures.
Zuccotti G, Samal L, Maloney FL, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2018;168:820-821.
Failure to follow up abnormal test results can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis. Using data from a single institution, researchers observed that while more than 99% of abnormal mammograms received appropriate follow-up, only 91% of abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) smears did. They suggest that improving workflow processes and ensuring appropriate use of health information technology can help optimize test result follow-up.
Meyer AND, Murphy DR, Al-Mutairi A, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2017;32.
Trigger tools facilitate identification of adverse events. In this retrospective medical record review study, investigators found that an automated trigger successfully identified delayed follow-up of laboratory thyroid testing among patients with hypothyroidism, with a positive predictive value of 60%. The authors suggest that this trigger approach could be used to detect and ameliorate follow-up delays in real time.
Lo H-Y, Mullan PC, Lye C, et al. BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2016;5.
Patient handoffs are vulnerable to errors of omission. This quality improvement project designed and implemented a checklist as a way to standardize the process of pediatric handoffs. The program found the tool to be effective in uncovering problems and physicians felt the checklist supported situational awareness and patient safety.
A man with end-stage renal disease was admitted with acute renal failure and mental status changes. The patient refused to take his lactulose owing to loose stools. Although nursing staff noted the refusal in the medical record, they did not inform his primary team. When the patient became more confused, a nurse alerted the team but did not describe the missed doses of lactulose. The patient continued to decline and was transferred to the ICU.
Administered antibiotics in the emergency department and rushed to the operating room for emergent cesarean delivery, a pregnant woman was found to have an infection of the amniotic sac. After delivery, she was transferred to the hospital floor without a continuation order for antibiotics. Within 24 hours, the inpatient team realized she had developed septic shock.
A woman with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease underwent hip surgery and experienced shortness of breath postoperatively. A chest radiograph showed a pneumothorax, but the radiologist was unable to locate the first call physician to page about this critical finding.
While hospitalized, a man with diabetes had difficult-to-control blood sugars, with multiple episodes of both critical hypoglycemia and serious hyperglycemia. Because "holds" of the patient's insulin were not clearly documented in the electronic health record and blood sugar readings were not uploaded in real time, providers were unaware of how much insulin had actually been given.
Admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy, a man with leukemia and diabetes arrived on the medical unit on a busy afternoon and waited until his room was ready. The nurse who checked him in assumed that his admitting orders were completed on the previous shift. That night, the patient took his own insulin from home without a meal and experienced a preventable episode of hypoglycemia.
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