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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.
Davis TC, Wolf MS, Bass PF, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145:887-94.
Poor health literacy has been identified as an important threat to patient safety, particularly through potentially contributing to adverse drug events. In this study, researchers surveyed patients in three urban primary care clinics serving predominantly indigent populations, and found that low health literacy was independently associated with misunderstanding of prescription drug label instructions. Although the study did not directly evaluate if misunderstanding led to medication errors, the study adds to a growing body of research documenting that patients with low and marginal health literacy have difficulty comprehending prescribing information. In the accompanying editorial, Dr. Dean Schillinger calls for development of standardized systems for transmitting medication instructions to patients in a clear and understandable fashion.