Nehls N, Yap TS, Salant T, et al. BMJ Open Qual. 2021;10:e001603.
Incomplete or delayed referrals from primary care providers to specialty care can cause diagnostic delays and patient harm. A systems engineering analysis was conducted to identify vulnerabilities in the referral process and develop a framework to close the loop between primary and specialty care. Low reliability processes, such as workarounds, were identified and human factors approaches were recommended to improve successful referral rates.
Lack of timely follow-up of test results is a recognized patient safety problem in primary care and can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses. This study used human factors methods to understand lack of timely follow-up of abnormal test results in outpatient settings. Through interviews with the ordering physicians, the researchers identified several contributing factors, such as provider-patient communication channel mismatch and diffusion of responsibility.
Cifuentes M, Davis M, Fernald D, et al. J Am Board Fam Med. 2015;28:S63-S72.
This observational study of 11 community practices that had integrated behavioral health and primary care describes the challenges related to electronic health records that do not specifically support integrated care delivery functions. There were issues with documentation, tracking, communication, and coordination of care, requiring practices to develop workarounds such as double data entry, scanning and uploading documents, or using separate tracking systems.
Griesbach S, Lustig A, Malsin L, et al. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2016;21:330-336.
This study of a quality improvement initiative found that automated screening of prescribing data uncovered many potential adverse drug events. Prescribers were notified about these safety concerns, and almost 80% of these potential adverse drug events were resolved through prescription changes. The extent of patient harm which occurred or was averted was not reported. This work suggests that real-time data from electronic prescribing could be harnessed to improve patient safety, as others have suggested.
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.
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.
This monthly selection of medication error reports describes a case of misidentifying home medications for a hospitalized patient, how character space limitations in medication administration records may cause medication errors, and fatal misuse of a fentanyl patch on a child.
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