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Meyer AND, Scott TMT, Singh H. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5:e228568.
Delayed communication of abnormal test results can contribute to diagnostic and treatment delays, patient harm, and malpractice claims. The Department of Veterans Affairs specifies abnormal test results be communicated to the patient within seven days if treatment is required, and within 14 days if no treatment is required. In the first full year of the program, 71% of abnormal test results and 80% of normal test results were communicated to the patient within the specified timeframes. Performance varied by facility and type of test.
Raghuram N, Alodan K, Bartels U, et al. Virchows Archiv. 2021;478:1179-1185.
Autopsies are an important tool for identifying diagnostic errors. This retrospective study of 821 pediatric cancer deaths found that 10% had a major diagnostic discrepancy between antemortem and postmortem diagnoses. These discrepancies primarily consisted of missed infections, missed cancer diagnoses, and organ complications.
Miller AC, Arakkal AT, Koeneman S, et al. BMJ Open. 2021;11:e045605.
Delayed diagnosis is a critical patient safety concern. This cohort study, consisting of 3,500 patients with tuberculosis (TB) over a 17-year period, found that more than three-quarters of patients experienced at least one missed opportunity for a diagnosis in the year before they were finally diagnosed with TB. The average duration of the diagnostic delay was nearly 32 days. Missed opportunities occurred most commonly in outpatient settings. A previous WebM&M commentary discusses patient harm resulting from a missed TB diagnosis.
Reeves JJ, Ayers JW, Longhurst CA. J Med Internet Res. 2021;23:e24785.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an extraordinary increase in the use of telehealth. This article discusses unintended consequences of telehealth and outlines guidance to assist health care providers in determining the appropriateness of a telehealth visit.
Dadlez NM, Adelman J, Bundy DG, et al. Ped Qual Saf. 2020;5:e299-e305.
Diagnostic errors, including missed diagnoses of adolescent depression, elevated blood pressure, and delayed response to abnormal lab results, are common in pediatric primary care. Building upon previous work, this study used root cause analyses to identify the failure points and contributing factors to these errors. Omitted process steps included failure to screen for adolescent depression, failure to recognize and act on abnormal blood pressure values, and failure to notify families of abnormal lab results. Factors contributing most commonly to these errors were patient volume, inadequate staffing, clinic environment, electronic and written communication, and provider knowledge.
Herledan C, Baudouin A, Larbre V, et al. Support Care Cancer. 2020;28:3557-3569.
This systematic review synthesizes the evidence from 14 studies on medication reconciliation in cancer patients. While the majority of studies did not include a contemporaneous comparison group, they did report that medication reconciliation led to medication error identification (most frequently drug omissions, additions or dosage errors) in up to 88-95% of patients.
Kattel S, Manning DM, Erwin PJ, et al. J Patient Saf. 2020;16.
Prior research has found poor communication between hospital-based and primary care physicians and has suggested that this may contribute to medical errors. This systematic review included 19 studies assessing the transfer of information at hospital discharge between hospital-based and primary care providers (PCPs), or evaluating interventions aimed at improving the timeliness and quality of discharge information. The review found that timely communication of discharge summaries was low, with 55% (median) transferred to PCPs within 48 hours and 85% (median) within 4-weeks; 8.5% of discharge summaries were never transferred. Discharge summaries nearly always contained patient demographics, admission/discharge dates and primary diagnoses, but less frequently included pending test results, diagnostic tests performed and discharge medications.
Omar A, Rees P, Cooper A, et al. Arch Dis Child. 2020;105:731-777.
Using a national database of patient safety incident reports in the United Kingdom, this study characterized primary care-related incidents among vulnerable children and used thematic analysis to identify priority areas for systems improvement. Over 1,100 incident reports were identified; nearly half resulted in some degree of harm but most (39%) were considered ‘low harm.’ Children with  protection-related vulnerabilities experienced harm from unsafe care more frequently than children with social-, psychological, or physical vulnerabilities. The authors identified system priority action areas to mitigate harm among vulnerable children, including improving provider access to accurate information and reducing delays in provider referrals.
Lacson R, Healey MJ, Cochon LR, et al. J Am Coll Radiol. 2020;17:765-772.
Radiological exams are often ordered but go unscheduled, which can delay diagnoses and lead to other medical errors. In this retrospective study at one academic institution, the clinical necessity of 700 unscheduled radiologic examination orders (100 from each of seven different radiographic modalities) was examined. Study results indicate that, except for CT, obstetric ultrasound and fluoroscopy radiologic tests, the majority of unscheduled orders are clinically necessary and that 7% of all radiologic examination orders remain unscheduled a month or more after the order was placed.
Williams S, Fiumara K, Kachalia A, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Saf. 2020;46:44-50.
A lack of closed-loop feedback systems has been identified as one contributor to underreporting of patient safety events. This paper describes one large academic medical center’s implementation of a Feedback to Reporter program in ambulatory care, which aimed to ensure feedback on safety reports is provided to reporting staff by managers. At baseline, 50% of staff who requested feedback ultimately received it; after three years, the rate of feedback to reporters had increased to 90%.
Dinsdale E, Hannigan A, O'Connor R, et al. Fam Pract. 2019.
Clear communication between primary care physicians and the providers to whom they refer patients has important implications for achieving accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans for patients. In this observational study, researchers included 6603 patients from 68 general medical practices in Ireland, randomly selecting 100 patients from each practice and excluding patients without complete records. They analyzed referral documentation and responses received from subspecialists as well as discharge summaries from hospitalizations over a 2-year period, compared with established national standards. Although 82% of referral letters included current medications, only 30% of response letters and discharge summaries contained medication changes and 33% had medication lists. The authors conclude that significant communication gaps exist between primary and secondary care and that further research is needed to understand how to address them. A past PSNet perspective discussed challenges associated with care transitions.
Given BA. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2019;35:374-379.
Cancer patients often rely on family members or paid caregivers to assist with care maintenance at home, such as taking medications and mobility support. This review highlights common safety gaps in home cancer care. The authors suggest that nurses can help assess caregiver knowledge and provide education to address safety issues.
Desai S, Fiumara K, Kachalia A. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e84-e90.
Outpatient safety is gaining recognition as a focus of research and improvement efforts. This project report describes an ambulatory safety program at an academic health system that targeted reporting, safety culture measurement, medication safety, and test result management. Repeated tracking over a 5-year period revealed that failure to request feedback played a role in the modest incident and concern reporting captured by the program. Decentralizing reporting response responsibilities throughout the system significantly increased feedback activity.
Dodge LE, Nippita S, Hacker MR, et al. J Healthc Risk Manag. 2019;38:44-54.
This pre–post study examined the implementation of AHRQ's TeamSTEPPS training program. Investigators found that the intervention had positive effects on staff ratings of teamwork and patient satisfaction, and these improvements persisted for one year.
Schwarz CM, Hoffmann M, Schwarz P, et al. BMC Health Serv Res. 2019;19:158.
Care transitions represent a vulnerable time for patients, especially at the time of hospital discharge. In this systematic review, researchers identified several factors related to discharge summaries that may adversely impact the safety of discharged patients, including delays in sending discharge summaries to outpatient providers as well as missing or low-quality information.
Khoong EC, Cherian R, Rivadeneira NA, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2018;37:1760-1769.
California's Medicaid pay-for-performance program requires safety-net health care systems to report and improve upon diverse ambulatory safety measures. Researchers found that participating safety-net hospitals struggled to report accurate data. Systems had more success improving metrics that placed patients at risk of life-threatening harm when compared to metrics that required longer term follow-up or patient engagement.
Huth K, Stack AM, Chi G, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2018;44:719-730.
Successful initiatives that have enhanced the safety of handoffs have largely focused on the inpatient setting. This study determined that handoffs between outpatient pediatric providers and the emergency department at a single institution varied in quality, which can lead to unnecessary testing and other harm. A past Annual Perspective discussed how robust handoffs may improve safety outcomes.
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.
Pellegrin K, Lozano A, Miyamura J, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:103-110.
Older adults frequently encounter medication-related harm, which may result in preventable hospitalizations. In six Hawaiian hospitals, hospital pharmacists identified older patients at risk of medication problems and assigned them to a community pharmacist who coordinated their medications across prescribers for 1 year after discharge. This post-hoc analysis of the intervention found that most medication-related harm occurred in the community (70%) rather than the hospital and that the intervention successfully reduced community-acquired harm.