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Müller M, Jürgens J, Redaèlli M, et al. BMJ Open. 2018;8:e022202.
Standardized handoff tools are increasingly implemented to improve communication between health care providers. Although this systematic review identified several studies supporting the use of SBAR as a communication tool to improve patient safety, the authors suggest the evidence is moderate and that further research is needed.
Griffiths P, Recio-Saucedo A, Dall'Ora C, et al. J Adv Nurs. 2018;74:1474-1487.
Inadequate hospital nurse staffing is linked to increased mortality. This systematic review found that lower nurse staffing is associated with more reports of missed nursing care. Two of the authors summarized the science of missed nursing care in a recent PSNet perspective.
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.
Jones PM, Cherry RA, Allen BN, et al. JAMA. 2018;319:143-153.
Handoffs between providers are inevitable and are known to introduce risks. This retrospective population-based cohort study in Canada examined the effects of intraoperative handoffs between anesthesiologists on major complications, readmissions, and 30-day mortality among patients undergoing surgery. After adjustment for patient and site characteristics, patients who experienced an anesthesiologist handoff had higher rates of major complications and mortality compared to patients who had the same anesthesiologist throughout their procedure. The number of surgeries in which a handoff occurred increased over time during the 6-year study period. These results suggest that limiting intraoperative anesthesiologist handoffs may improve safety. However, a related editorial posits that reducing handoffs is a simplistic solution that may have unintended consequences and instead recommends that quality improvement approaches, such as developing standardized handoff procedures, may result in more meaningful enhancements for intraoperative anesthesia safety.
Ball JE, Bruyneel L, Aiken LH, et al. Int J Nurs Stud. 2018;78:10-15.
Missed nursing care may result from inadequate nurse staffing and explain the relationship between nurse-to-patient ratios and patient outcomes. Research has shown that higher nurse staffing levels are associated with lower inpatient mortality and that reduced staffing increases the risk for postoperative complications. In this study, investigators examined data from more than 400,000 surgical patients from 300 hospitals in 9 countries as well as survey responses from 26,516 nurses. They found a significant association between nurse staffing and missed nursing care with 30-day risk-adjusted postoperative mortality. The authors conclude that measuring missed nursing care may help identify patients at greater risk for adverse outcomes earlier in their course. A past WebM&M commentary highlighted important issues associated with nurse staffing ratios.
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.
Jha AK, Chan DC, Ridgway AB, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2009;28:1475-1484.
The seminal Institute of Medicine report To Err Is Human estimated that preventable errors cost the US health care system more than $17 billion annually. Although hospitals themselves currently bear only a small proportion of these costs, payers are increasingly seeking to realign incentives to both improve safety and control costs. This study examined the costs associated with both preventable adverse events and redundant tests (duplicate tests ordered for the same patient by different physicians). The authors estimate that eliminating preventable adverse events (principally health care–associated infections) alone could save the US health system more than $16 billion annually, with an additional $8 billion in savings potentially achievable by eliminating redundant tests. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' policy eliminating reimbursement for certain preventable conditions is an attempt to address this issue. A companion article explains that the savings realized by this policy are likely to be minimal.
Were MC, Li X, Kesterson J, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2009;24:1002-6.
Adverse events after hospital discharge are a continued threat to patient safety and a significant source of communication failures, particularly for tests that are pending at discharge. This study reviewed nearly 700 discharge summaries from two academic centers and found that only 16% of pending tests were mentioned and that only 13% of discharge summaries listed all pending tests. Equally concerning was that follow-up providers' information was documented in only 67% of cases. Recognition of these problems has led to the development of discharge checklists and reengineering of the process. A past AHRQ WebM&M perspective and interview discussed issues around safe care transitions.
Gandhi TK, Kachalia A, Thomas EJ, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145:488-496.
Medical errors in the outpatient setting have remained a relatively understudied aspect of patient safety. This study analyzed data from malpractice claims at four liability insurers, similar to companion studies of errors in surgical and emergency department patients, to determine the frequency and causes of missed and delayed diagnoses. Diagnostic errors resulting in patient harm occurred in 181 cases, chiefly consisting of missed or delayed diagnoses of cancer. Failure to reach a timely diagnosis was generally due to multiple process breakdowns, including failure to order an appropriate diagnostic test and inadequate follow-up planning, many of which could be ascribed to physician cognitive errors. As with prior studies using chart review, reviewer's agreement on whether an error occurred was only moderate. The authors note that due to the complexity of contributing factors to outpatient errors, simple solutions are unlikely. An accompanying editorial, available via the link below, considers the differences in the nature of errors and approaches to solving them between the inpatient and outpatient settings and calls for greater attention to tackling outpatient safety issues.
Sutcliffe KM, Lewton E, Rosenthal MM. Acad Med. 2004;79:186-194.
In order to better understand the impact of communication failures, this qualitative study analyzed interview findings from residents at a single teaching hospital. Study participants identified 70 "mishaps" in which communication and patient management factors contributed the most to the associated events. Several anecdotes illustrate the role communication failures played in these mishaps and how common these situations are in daily practice. The authors conclude that barriers to effective communication are both individual and systemic and that there is a need for both educational and organizational interventions.