Murphy DR, Wu L, Thomas EJ, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2015;33:3560-7.
Trigger tools are algorithms that prompt clinicians to investigate a potential adverse event. These tools are in routine practice for detection of adverse drug events and have been used to identify diagnostic delays. Investigators randomized physicians to either no intervention or to receive triggers related to cancer diagnosis; each trigger was an abnormal diagnostic test result for which follow-up testing is recommended. Delays in acting on abnormal test results are a known cause of adverse events. Sending reminders to physicians based on the trigger process led to higher rates of recommended diagnostic evaluation completion and a shorter time to completion for two of the three studied conditions. These promising results suggest that trigger tools could play a role in improving diagnosis across a range of conditions.
Li SYW, Magrabi F, Coiera E. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012;19:6-12.
Interruptions pose a significant safety hazard for health care providers performing complex tasks, such as signout or medication administration. However, as prior research has pointed out, many interruptions are necessary for clinical care, making it difficult for safety professionals to develop approaches to limiting the harmful effects of interruptions. Reviewing the literature on interruptions from the psychology and informatics fields, this study identifies several key variables that influence the relationship between interruption of a task and patient harm. The authors provide several recommendations, based on human factors engineering principles, to mitigate the effect of interruptions on patient care. A case of an interruption leading to a medication error is discussed in this AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
Catchpole K, Sellers R, Goldman A, et al. Qual Saf Health Care. 2010;19:318-22.
Transfer of patients from the operating room to intensive care involves exchange of complex information between multiple providers in a short period of time. In an innovative effort to apply principles from other industries to medicine, this study used interviews with the managers of Formula One auto racing teams to determine the key elements of racing "pit stops" and draw lessons for improving the safety of the postoperative handover process. The key lessons learned from the auto racing approach—proactive planning, active management of the handover process using information technology, and post hoc learning by data monitoring and analysis—have subsequently been applied to standardize and improve the postoperative handover process.
Rivera-Rodriguez AJ, Karsh B-T. Qual Saf Health Care. 2010;19:304-312.
The majority of individual errors are due to failure to perform automatic or reflexive actions. A major risk factor for these "slips" is being interrupted or distracted while performing a task. This review examined the literature on the incidence, risk factors, and effects of interruptions in several clinical settings, ranging from outpatient clinics to the operating room. Although distractions are common and may be associated with increased risk for error, particularly if they occur during medication administration or signout, the authors point out that many interruptions may be necessary to communicate urgent clinical information. They argue for complexity theory–based research to delineate the harmful and beneficial aspects of interruptions, rather than for interventions that seek to simply eliminate interruptions. Checklists have been widely adopted as a means of preventing errors of omission, which may be precipitated by interruptions.
Were MC, Li X, Kesterson J, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2009;24:1002-6.
Adverse events after hospital discharge are a continued threat to patient safety and a significant source of communication failures, particularly for tests that are pending at discharge. This study reviewed nearly 700 discharge summaries from two academic centers and found that only 16% of pending tests were mentioned and that only 13% of discharge summaries listed all pending tests. Equally concerning was that follow-up providers' information was documented in only 67% of cases. Recognition of these problems has led to the development of discharge checklists and reengineering of the process. A past AHRQ WebM&M perspective and interview discussed issues around safe care transitions.
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