Lagisetty P, Macleod C, Thomas J, et al. Pain. 2021;162:1379-1386.
Inappropriate prescribing of opioids is a major contributor to the ongoing opioid epidemic. This study involved simulated patients with chronic opioid use who called primary care clinics in need of a new provider because their previous physician had retired or stopped prescribing opioids. Findings indicate that primary care providers were generally unwilling to prescribe opioids to patients whose histories are suggestive of misuse, which may raise access to care concerns and cause potential unintended harm for some patients.
Delays in diagnosis and treatment during after-hours care pose serious threats to patient safety. This case-control study compared missed acute coronary syndrome (ACS) cases to other cases with chest discomfort occurring during out-of-hours services in primary care. Predictors of missed ACS included the use of cardiovascular medication, non-retrosternal chest pain, and consultation of the supervising general practitioner.
Vyas DA, Eisenstein LG, Jones DS. N Engl J Med. 2020;383(9):874-882.
Physicians commonly use diagnostic algorithms and practice guidelines to individualize risk assessment and guide clinical decisions. The authors discuss the possible dangers of using race-adjusted algorithms due to their potential to lead to diagnostic errors and delays in care.
Bloodworth LS, Malinowski SS, Lirette ST, et al. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association: JAPhA. 2019;59:896-904.
Medication reconciliation is one potential strategy for preventing adverse events and readmissions. This study examined a pharmacist-led intervention involving collaborations with inpatient and community-based pharmacists to provide pre-discharge and 30-day medication reconciliation. There were indications that this type of intervention can reduce readmission rates, but further investigation in larger populations is necessary.
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.
Herlihy M, Harcourt K, Fossa A, et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2019;134:128-137.
Prior research has shown that when patients have access to clinicians' notes, they may identify relevant safety concerns. In this study, 9550 obstetrics and gynecology patients were provided with access to their outpatient visit documentation. Almost 70% of eligible patients read one or more notes during the study period, but only 3.2% shared feedback through 232 electronic reports. Of patients who provided feedback, 27% identified errors in the documentation; provider reviewers determined that 75% of these could impact care.
Cheong V-L, Tomlinson J, Khan S, Petty D. Prescriber. 2019;30:29-34.
Geriatric patients are particularly vulnerable to medication-related harm. This article summarizes types of incidents and contributing factors to adverse drug events in older patients after hospital discharge. The authors recommend strategies to reduce medication-related harm, including discharge communication improvements, primary care collaboration, and postdischarge patient education.
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.
Molloy MA, Cary MP, Brennan-Cook J, et al. Home Healthc Now. 2018;36:225-231.
Patient utilization of home care is expected to increase with advances in medical care and health technologies. This commentary presents simulation as a promising tool to develop and assess home care staff skills to improve transitions from acute care to home health care.
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.
Clarity C, Sarkar U, Lee J, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2017;43:517-523.
Poor test result management can lead to missed or delayed diagnosis. This qualitative study of clinicians involved in test result management found that lack of clear responsibility for test results, inability to track result follow-up via technology, and absence of standardized workflow and expectations impede timely test result notification and follow-up. The authors recommend employing both workflow and technology solutions to address this safety gap.
Abebe E, Stone JA, Lester CA, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:405-411.
Handoffs present a significant patient safety hazard across multiple health care settings. Interruptions and distractions, which can interfere with handoff communication, are prevalent in pharmacy environments. This cross-sectional survey of community pharmacies found that virtually none of the pharmacists had received training in how to hand off information. A significant proportion of responses indicated that pharmacy information technology systems do not support handoff communication. Respondents reported that handoffs are frequently inadequate or inaccurate. The authors conclude that interventions are needed to enhance the quality of handoff communication in community pharmacy settings to prevent dispensing errors.
Meyer AND, Murphy DR, Al-Mutairi A, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2017;32.
Trigger tools facilitate identification of adverse events. In this retrospective medical record review study, investigators found that an automated trigger successfully identified delayed follow-up of laboratory thyroid testing among patients with hypothyroidism, with a positive predictive value of 60%. The authors suggest that this trigger approach could be used to detect and ameliorate follow-up delays in real time.
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.
Highlighting how the disconnect between hospital medicine programs and primary care practices introduces challenges to ensuring continuity of care and information transfer, this commentary relates strategies for strengthening communication and partnership between hospitalists and primary care providers to augment these handoffs.
Balka E, Tolar M, Coates S, et al. Int J Med Inform. 2013;82:e345-57.
This ethnographic case study explored patient handoffs across different situations, including pre-hospital and primary care settings. These analyses emphasize numerous contextual issues that need be considered when creating computerized systems to support handoffs.
Salinas M, López-Garrigós M, Lillo R, et al. Clin Biochem. 2013;46:1767-9.
Although electronic test ordering resulted in fewer patient identification errors in a clinical laboratory, significant variability in error rates between centers remained, emphasizing the continued effect of human behavior on interventions.
Roy CL, Rothschild JM, Dighe AS, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2013;39:517-527.
Appropriate follow-up of abnormal test results remains a difficult issue. This local task force report recommends standardization of notification policies, clear identification of the care team, enhanced electronic result tracking, and quality reporting and metrics.
Giardina TD, King BJ, Ignaczak AP, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2013;32:1368-75.
Failure to properly follow up on test results can result in missed or delayed diagnoses. This study from the Veterans Affairs (VA) system reveals the clinical impact of inadequate care processes for patients with urgent follow-up needs. By analyzing 111 root cause analyses of diagnostic error cases in the outpatient setting, the authors determined that poorly coordinated care—arising from a lack of systems to track patients needing urgent evaluation, insufficient follow-up of abnormal test results, and inadequate communication between clinicians—contributed to most of the missed or delayed diagnoses. Although electronic medical records (EMRs) should facilitate responding to abnormal test results, prior VA studies have shown that a small but clinically significant proportion of abnormal laboratory tests and radiology studies are not acted upon in a timely fashion (despite the VA having a fully integrated EMR for more than a decade). The authors advocate for refining EMR systems to better facilitate communication between clinicians and for emphasizing teamwork training in the outpatient setting.
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