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Lam BD, Bourgeois FC, Dong ZJ, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:685-694.
Providing patients access to their medical records can improve patient engagement and error identification. A survey of patients and families found that about half of adult patients and pediatric families who perceived a serious mistake in their ambulatory care notes reported it, but identified several barriers to reporting (e.g. no clear reporting mechanism, lack of perceived support).  
A 62-year-old man with a history of malnutrition-related encephalopathy was admitted for possible aspiration pneumonia complicated by empyema and coagulopathy. During the hospitalization, he was uncooperative and exhibited signs of delirium. For a variety of reasons, he spent two weeks in the hospital with minimal oral intake and without receiving most of his oral medications, putting him at risk for complications and adverse outcomes.
This Primer provides an overview of the history and current status of the patient safety field and key definitions and concepts. It links to other Patient Safety Primers that discuss the concepts in more detail.
Pandya C, Clarke T, Scarsella E, et al. J Oncol Pract. 2019;15:e480-e489.
Care transitions and handoffs represent a vulnerable time for patients, as failure to communicate important clinical information may occur with the potential for harm. In this pre–post study, researchers found that implementation of an electronic health record tool designed to improve the handoff between oncology clinic and infusion nurses was associated with a reduction in medication errors, shorter average patient waiting time, and better communication between nurses.
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.
To transfer a man with possible sepsis to a hospital with subspecialty and critical care, a physician was unaware of a formal protocol and called a colleague at the academic medical center. The colleague secured a bed, and the patient was sent over. However, neither clinical data nor the details of the patient's current condition were transmitted to the hospital's transfer center, and the receiving physician booked a general ward bed rather than an ICU bed. When the patient arrived, his mentation was altered and breathing was rapid.
Cierniak KH; Gaunt MJ; Grissinger M.
The operating room environment harbors particular patient safety hazards. Drawing from 1137 perioperative medication error reports submitted over a 1-year period, this analysis found that more than half of the recorded incidents reached the patient and the majority of those stemmed from communication breakdowns during transitions or handoffs. The authors provide recommendations to reduce risks of error, including using barcode medication administration, standardizing handoff procedures, and stocking prefilled syringes.
Gilliland N, Catherwood N, Chen S, et al. BMJ Open Qual. 2018;7:e000170.
Incomplete communication regarding patient information can diminish the safety of care delivery. This commentary describes how a quality improvement project applied plan–do–study–act cycles to enhance collection of patient data. Researchers developed, tested, and refined a ward round template in a United Kingdom urology service and increased compliance in the recording of patient care measures.
Zuccotti G, Samal L, Maloney FL, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2018;168:820-821.
Failure to follow up abnormal test results can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis. Using data from a single institution, researchers observed that while more than 99% of abnormal mammograms received appropriate follow-up, only 91% of abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) smears did. They suggest that improving workflow processes and ensuring appropriate use of health information technology can help optimize test result follow-up.
Lo H-Y, Mullan PC, Lye C, et al. BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2016;5.
Patient handoffs are vulnerable to errors of omission. This quality improvement project designed and implemented a checklist as a way to standardize the process of pediatric handoffs. The program found the tool to be effective in uncovering problems and physicians felt the checklist supported situational awareness and patient safety.
Murphy DR, Meyer AND, Bhise V, et al. Chest. 2016;150:613-20.
Insufficient follow-up of test results is a known contributor to missed and delayed diagnosis. This observational study used a trigger tool to detect diagnostic delays related to chest imaging follow-up. Investigators used an automated algorithm to identify chest imaging cases that potentially had a follow-up delay. A clinician then reviewed the medical records for a random sample of cases identified by the trigger tool and a reference set of cases involving patients with abnormal test results but no delays. They found that the trigger tool had 99% sensitivity and 38% specificity in detecting delays in follow-up of abnormal chest imaging. The authors suggest that this trigger tool may help identify patients at risk for diagnostic delay following abnormal chest imaging. A WebM&M commentary discussed delayed follow-up of a diagnostic test.
Yadav S, Kazanji N, C NK, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2017;24:140-144.
Compared to paper charts, electronic health records offer safety benefits for physician documentation including better availability and legibility. However, electronic documentation introduces new concerns, such as copy-and-paste practices (which can perpetuate errors) and lack of diagnostic reasoning in electronic notes. This study compared physical exam documentation in initial physician progress notes before and after implementation of an electronic health record. Investigators found more inaccuracies in electronic notes, but more errors of omission in paper charts. Trainee physicians' documentation had fewer errors in both paper and electronic formats. The authors recommend that hospitals discourage copied notes and encourage accurate documentation at the time of the patient encounter. The importance of the physical examination itself was discussed in a PSNet interview with Dr. Abraham Verghese.
Admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy, a man with leukemia and diabetes arrived on the medical unit on a busy afternoon and waited until his room was ready. The nurse who checked him in assumed that his admitting orders were completed on the previous shift. That night, the patient took his own insulin from home without a meal and experienced a preventable episode of hypoglycemia.
Dalal AK, Pesterev BM, Eibensteiner K, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015;22:905-8.
Failure to follow-up on test results in ambulatory practice is a common, serious safety concern. This study examined the use of a results manager tool by primary care physicians in Partners Healthcare in Boston. Although the vast majority of providers used the tool, many did not find that it was helpful for any specific purpose and only 64% were satisfied with the tool.
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.
Weis JM, Levy PC. Chest. 2014;145:632-8.
Adoption and implementation of electronic health records have raised concerns about the ability to copy and paste. Highlighting the prevalence of using copy and paste to update electronic medical documentation, this commentary relates how this might facilitate communication and introduce risks to patient care.
Moy NY, Lee SJ, Chan T, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2014;40:219-227.
This quality improvement evaluation found that a structured inpatient-to-outpatient handoff tool in the electronic health record was successfully implemented and improved the timeliness of communication, a key step in preventing postdischarge adverse events.
A teenager presented to an urgent care clinic with new bumps and white spots near her tongue. Although she was diagnosed with herpetic gingivostomatitis, the after-visit summary incorrectly populated the diagnosis of "thrush" from the triage information, which was not updated with the correct diagnosis. The mistake on the printout caused confusion for the patient's mother and necessitated several follow-up communications to clear up.