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Dalal AK, Schaffer A, Gershanik EF, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2018;33:1043-1051.
Incomplete follow-up of tests pending at hospital discharge is a persistent patient safety issue. This cluster-randomized trial used medical record review to assess whether an automated notification of test results to discharging hospitalist physicians and receiving primary care physicians improved follow-up compared with usual care. The intervention was focused on actionable test results, which constituted less than 10% of all pending tests. Even with the intervention, only 60% of tests deemed actionable had any documented follow-up in the medical record, and there was no significant difference compared to usual care. The authors conclude that automated clinician notification does not constitute a sufficient intervention to optimize management of tests pending at discharge. Previous WebM&M commentaries explored problems related to tests pending at discharge and how organizations can improve follow-up of abnormal test results.
Parshuram CS, Dryden-Palmer K, Farrell C, et al. JAMA. 2018;319:1002-1012.
Identifying incipient clinical deterioration is a prerequisite for rapid response and prevention of harm for hospitalized patients. This study tested a bedside pediatric early warning system, which included an illness severity score, standardized documentation, and monitoring protocols. In a cluster-randomized trial in several high-income countries, implementation of the bundle did not result in decreased in-hospital mortality compared to usual care. The overall mortality rate in the study was less than 0.2%. The authors suggest that this unexpectedly low mortality rate may have made it difficult to detect differences in intervention versus control hospitals. A related editorial suggests that artificial intelligence should be used to identify clinical deterioration and that outcomes beyond mortality should be considered in their evaluation.
Walker S, Mason A, Quan P, et al. Lancet. 2017;390:62-72.
The weekend effect (higher mortality for patients in acute care settings on weekends compared to weekdays) has led to widespread concerns about hospital staffing. This retrospective study examined whether mortality for emergency admissions at four hospitals in the United Kingdom differed on weekends compared to weekdays. Unlike prior studies of the weekend effect, this study included multiple specific markers of patients' illness severity as well as hospital workload. Investigators found higher mortality associated with being admitted to the hospital during weekends compared to weekdays, but a significant proportion of the observed weekend effect was explained by severity of patient illness. They used three measures to approximate hospital workload: total number of admissions, net admissions (subtracting discharges from admissions), and percentage of beds occupied. None of these workload measures was associated with mortality. The authors conclude that differences in illness severity rather than health care team staffing explain the weekend effect. A recent PSNet interview discussed the weekend effect in health care.
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.
Callen J, Georgiou A, Li J, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2011;20:194-199.
Adverse events after hospital discharge are a growing driver for safety interventions, including a focus on readmissions, adverse drug events, and hospital-acquired infections. Another safety area ripe for intervention is managing test results after hospital discharge. This systematic review analyzed 12 studies and found wide variation in rates of test follow-up and related management systems. Critical test results and results for patients moving across health care settings were highlighted as particularly concerning areas that could be addressed with better clinical information systems. A past AHRQ WebM&M commentary discussed a case where a patient was incorrectly treated based on failure to follow up a urine culture after hospital discharge.
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.
Singh H, Thomas EJ, Mani S, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:1578-1586.
Inadequate follow-up of diagnostic testing is a known safety issue in both hospital and ambulatory settings. Adoption of information technology approaches serves as a logical solution if designed to effectively notify providers of pending or necessary follow-up actions. This study used tracking software to determine if an electronic alert for abnormal imaging results was acknowledged and acted upon in a Veterans Affairs ambulatory setting. Investigators discovered that their seemingly fail-proof system, which included dual-alert communications, still led to persistent problems with missed test results. They also found that the dual-alert communication system was unexpectedly associated with a lack of timely follow-up. The authors advocate for greater multidisciplinary approaches to address these breakdowns.
Schnipper JL, Hamann C, Ndumele CD, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:771-80.
Attempts to reduce medication discrepancies in hospitalized patients have been hampered by a lack of proven medication reconciliation strategies. In this cluster-randomized trial, a previously described electronic medication list that required input from nurses, physicians, and pharmacists was implemented at two academic hospitals. The tool resulted in a significant reduction in potential adverse drug events at discharge. However, potential drug errors still occurred at a rate of one per patient even after implementation. The intervention was more successful at preventing medication discrepancies among high-risk patients. This study is one of the first randomized trials of a medication reconciliation intervention, and points the way toward identifying medication reconciliation tools that are widely applicable.
Van Eaton EG, Horvath KD, Lober WB, et al. J Am Coll Surg. 2005;200:538-45.
With growing pressure to develop methods for efficient communication, patient data collection, and resident sign-out, this study evaluated the implementation of an innovative web-based program. The computerized system securely organized important sign-out information, automatically downloaded daily patient data, and printed the data to designed templates. For the medical and surgical teams using the intervention, significantly more time was spent seeing patients rather than collecting data, improvements were reported in both sign-out and continuity of care, and nearly half the time was spent prerounding. The authors suggest that well-designed information technology systems can not only improve the quality of care but also address the importance of efficiency.