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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.  
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.  
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.
McDonald EG, Wu PE, Rashidi B, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2019;67:1843-1850.
This pre–post study compared patients who received medication reconciliation that was usual care at the time of hospital discharge to patients in the intervention arm who had decision support for deprescribing. Although the intervention did lead to more discontinuation of potentially inappropriate medications, there was no difference in adverse drug events between groups. The authors suggest larger studies to elucidate the potential to address medication safety using deprescribing decision support.
Trivedi A, Sharma S, Ajitsaria R, et al. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2019;105:122-126.
Medication reconciliation to ensure accuracy of patient medication lists has been difficult to implement. This project report describes an initiative to enhance the timeliness of medication reconciliation for pediatric inpatients. Use of Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles helped inform the evolution of the work. The authors emphasize the importance of engaging the entire care team as well as patients and families to enable completion of the process.
National Pharmacy Association; NPA.
This website for independent community pharmacy owners across the United Kingdom features both free and members-only guidance, reporting platforms, and document templates to support patient safety. It includes reporting tools and incident analysis reports for providers in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Topics covered in the communications include look-alike and sound-alike drugs, patient safety audits, and safe dispensing of liquid medications.
Following catheter-guided thrombolysis for a large saddle pulmonary embolism, a man was monitored in the intensive care unit. The catheters were removed the next day, and the patient was sent from the interventional radiology suite to the postanesthesia care unit, after which he was transferred to a telemetry bed on the stepdown unit. No explicit plan for anticoagulation was discussed with the accepting medical team. Shortly after the nurse found the patient lethargic, tachycardic, and hypoxic, the patient lost his pulse and a code was called.
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.
Tully AP, Hammond DA, Li C, et al. Crit Care Med. 2019;47:543-549.
Transitions of care, whether from the hospital to the outpatient setting or within the hospital itself, represent a vulnerable time for patients. Inadequate communication during handoffs that occur as part of care transitions can contribute to adverse events and errors, including medication errors. This study of 58 intensive care units (ICUs) across 34 United States hospitals and 2 Dutch hospitals sought to assess medication errors among patients transferred from ICUs. Of the 985 patients included in the study, almost half (46%) experienced a medication error during transition out of the ICU. Discontinuing orders and reordering medications at the time of transfer out of the ICU as well as daily patient rounding in the ICU were associated with decreased odds of medication error during transition. A past Annual Perspective discussed challenges associated with handoffs and transitions of care.
Seen in the emergency department, a man with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus had not taken insulin for 3 days. His blood glucose levels were in the 800s with an anion-gap acidosis and positive beta hydroxybutyrate. While awaiting an ICU bed for treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, the patient received fluids, an insulin drip was started, and blood glucose levels were monitored hourly. When lab results showed he was improving, the team decided to convert his insulin drip to subcutaneous long-acting insulin.
Craynon R, Hager DR, Reed M, et al. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2018;75:1486-1492.
Pharmacists are expanding their reach as stewards of medication safety into the front line of care. This project report describes the pilot testing of pharmacist involvement in development and review of medication orders in the discharge workflow. A substantive percentage of medication problems were prevented due to pharmacist engagement.
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.
Triller D, Myrka A, Gassler J, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2018;44:630-640.
Patients prescribed high-risk medications, including anticoagulants, are at increased risk for adverse drug events and may be particularly vulnerable during care transitions. This study describes how a multidisciplinary panel of anticoagulation experts used an iterative consensus-building process to determine what information should be communicated to relevant providers for all patients on anticoagulation undergoing a transition in care.
Schnipper JL, Mixon A, Stein J, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2018;27:954-964.
The goal of medication reconciliation is to prevent unintended medication discrepancies at times of transitions in care, which can lead to adverse events. Implementing effective medication reconciliation interventions has proven to be challenging. In this AHRQ-funded quality improvement study, five hospitals implemented a standardized approach to admission and discharge medication reconciliation using an evidence-based toolkit with longitudinal mentorship from the study investigators. The toolkit was implemented at each study site by a pharmacist and a hospitalist with support from local leadership. The intervention did not achieve overall reduction in potentially harmful medication discrepancies compared to baseline temporal trends. However, significant differences existed between the study sites, with sites that successfully implemented the recommended interventions being more likely to achieve reductions in harmful medication discrepancies. The study highlights the difficulty inherent in implementing quality improvement interventions in real-world settings. A WebM&M commentary discussed the importance of medication reconciliation and suggested best practices.
Admitted to the oncology service for chemotherapy treatment, a woman with leukemia was noted to be neutropenic on hospital day 6. She had some abdominal discomfort and had not had a bowel movement for 2 days. The overnight physician ordered a suppository without realizing that the patient was neutropenic and immunosuppressed. Unaware that suppositories are contraindicated in neutropenic patients, the nurse administered the suppository.
One day after reading only the first line of a final ultrasound result (which stated that the patient had a thrombosis), an intern reported to the ICU team that the patient had a DVT. Because she had postoperative bleeding, the team elected to place an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter rather than administer anticoagulants to prevent a pulmonary embolism (PE). The next week, a new ICU team discussed the care plan and questioned the IVC filter.
Hospitalized with sepsis secondary to an infected IV line through which she was receiving treprostnil (a high-alert medication used to treat pulmonary hypertension), a woman was transferred to interventional radiology for placement of a new permanent catheter once the infection cleared. Sign-off between departments included a warning not to flush the line since it would lead to a dangerous overdose. However, while attempting to identify an infusion pump alarm, a radiology technician accidentally flushed the line, which led to a near code situation.
Epstein RH, Dexter F, Gratch DM, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2017;43:396-402.
Prior research has shown that handoff practices between anesthesiologists in the operating room may be inadequate. Investigators found that handoffs among anesthesia providers that involved a permanent transfer of patient care during an operating room case led to an increased risk of controlled medication discrepancies between what was documented by the anesthesiologists and recorded in pharmacy transaction data.
Although meningitis and neurosyphilis were ruled out for a woman presenting with a headache and blurry vision, blood tests returned indicating latent (inactive) syphilis. Due to a history of penicillin allergy, the patient was sent for testing for penicillin sensitivity, which was negative. The allergist placed orders for neurosyphilis treatment—a far higher penicillin dose than needed to treat latent syphilis, and a treatment regimen that would have required hospitalization.