Staggers N, Clark L, Blaz JW, et al. Health Informatics J. 2011;17:209-23.
By enhancing providers' ability to transmit information in a concise and standardized fashion, electronic medical records (EMR) offer great promise for improving handoffs and signouts. However, this analysis of nursing handoffs at an institution with a commercial EMR found that the built-in patient summaries provided inadequate detail and flexibility for clinical signout purposes, forcing nurses to develop workarounds for transmitting key information. This finding reveals the importance of human factors engineering in designing information technology solutions for patient safety problems.
A powerful anti-clotting medication is ordered for a patient admitted for coronary intervention. Due to a forcing function in the computer order entry system, the intern enters an arbitrary maintenance infusion rate, assuming that the pharmacy will fix it if it is wrong. The pharmacy dispenses it as written, and the nurse administers it—underdosing the patient by a factor of 40.
A pregnant woman with asthma was admitted to the hospital with respiratory distress. Although the emergency department providers noted that she was pregnant, this information was not conveyed to the floor. On admission, the patient was given an antibiotic that could have been dangerous.
Anticoagulant therapies such as heparin and warfarin are considered high-alert medications, due to the high potential for patient harm if used improperly. They have been associated with adverse events in a variety of settings, including in hospitalized patients and outpatients, and ensuring the safety of patients receiving anticoagulants is a National Patient Safety Goal for 2008. This sentinel event alert issued by the Joint Commission discusses the root causes of anticoagulant-associated patient harm and recommends strategies for reducing errors, including implementation of a pharmacist-led anticoagulation service. Sentinel event alerts are intended to promote rapid implementation of patient safety strategies, and adherence to these recommendations is assessed on site visits by the Joint Commission. Note: This alert has been retired effective October 2019. Please refer to the full-text link below for further information.
Bails D, Clayton K, Roy K, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2008;34:499-508.
Medication reconciliation—the process of cross-checking patients' medication lists to correct errors and inadvertent omissions—was named a National Patient Safety Goal in 2005. Despite this, no consensus exists yet as to the best method of accomplishing medication reconciliation. This description of the process of implementing medication reconciliation at an urban public hospital includes much information that will be helpful for hospitals undertaking a similar process. The authors detail the barriers faced in developing the system (which was incorporated into an existing computerized order entry system), encouraging use of the system, and improving it based on user feedback. Prior research in this area has demonstrated the effectiveness of pharmacists at carrying out medication reconciliation.
Poon EG, Blumenfeld B, Hamann C, et al. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 2006;13.
Prior studies have documented that medication errors frequently occur at times of transitions in care such as hospital admission and discharge. Hospitals are now required to have a system for medication reconciliation as a means of averting such errors. This article describes the development, pilot testing, and implementation of a medication reconciliation application within the electronic medical record (EMR) of an integrated health care network. At the time of hospital admission, the system integrates data from the outpatient and inpatient EMR to formulate an accurate medication list, which is used as the basis for medication reconciliation.
Schade CP, Sullivan FM, de Lusignan S, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2006;13:470-5.
The authors discuss why general practitioners' adoption of electronic health records is more prevalent in the United Kingdom than the United States and identify features that might encourage adoption in the US.
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