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Driver BE, Scharber SK, Fagerstrom ET, et al. J Emerg Med. 2019;56:109-113.
This pre–post study examined the effect of an electronic health record alert that required physicians to respond "yes" or "no" regarding whether tests were pending at the time of discharge from the emergency department. Investigators found that physician responses were often inaccurate, and the proportion of discharged patients with tests pending increased following the intervention, contrary to intentions.
After presenting to the emergency department, a woman with chest pain was given nitroglycerine and a so-called GI cocktail. Her electrocardiogram was unremarkable, and she was scheduled for a stress test the next morning. A few minutes into the stress test, the patient collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.
A healthy elderly man presented to his primary care doctor—a third-year internal medicine resident—for routine examination. A PSA test was markedly elevated, but the results came back after the resident had graduated, and the alert went unread. Months later, the patient presented with new onset low back pain and was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.
Most patient interactions with the health care system occur in the outpatient setting. Many potential and actual safety problems occur there as well.(1) Yet patient safety literature and practice do not seem to have reached deeply into ambulatory care.
An inpatient missing from his room is found several hours later outside the emergency department. Despite having arrived at the ED in a hospital gown with an inpatient ID bracelet, the patient is treated in the ED and discharged.
Bypassing the safeguards of an automated dispensing machine in a skilled nursing facility, a nurse administers medications from a portable medication cart. A non-diabetic patient receives insulin by mistake, which requires his admission to intensive care and delays his chemotherapy for cancer.
A woman hospitalized for CHF (with no history of diabetes) is given several rounds of insulin and D50, after repeated blood tests show her glucose to be dangerously high, then dangerously low. Turns out, the blood samples were drawn incorrectly and the signouts were incomplete.