Buitrago I, Seidl KL, Gingold DB, et al. J Healthc Qual. 2022;44:169-177.
Reducing hospital 30-day readmissions is seen as a way to improve safety and reduce costs. Baltimore City mobile integrated health and community paramedicine (MIH-CP) was designed to improve transitional care from hospital to home. After one year in operation, MIH-CP performed a chart review to determine causes of readmission among patients in the program. Root cause analysis indicated that at least one social determinant of health (e.g., health literacy) played a role in preventable readmissions; the program was modified to improve transitional care.
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.
Domingo J, Galal G, Huang J. NEJM Catalyst. 2022;3.
Failure to follow up on abnormal diagnostic test results can cause delays in patients receiving appropriate care. This hospital used an artificial intelligence natural language processing system to identify radiology reports requiring follow-up. The system triggered automated notifications to the patient and ordering provider, and tracked follow-ups to completion. System development, deployment and next steps are detailed.
Root cause analysis is a commonly used tool to identify systems-related factors that contributed to an adverse event. This study assessed a system-based approach, (i.e., collaborative case reviews (CCR) co-led by radiology and an institutional patient safety program) to identify contributing factors and explore the strength of recommended actions in the radiology department at a large academic medical center. Stronger action items, such as standardization of processes, were implemented in 41% of events, and radiology had higher completion rates than other hospital departments.
Nehls N, Yap TS, Salant T, et al. BMJ Open Qual. 2021;10:e001603.
Incomplete or delayed referrals from primary care providers to specialty care can cause diagnostic delays and patient harm. A systems engineering analysis was conducted to identify vulnerabilities in the referral process and develop a framework to close the loop between primary and specialty care. Low reliability processes, such as workarounds, were identified and human factors approaches were recommended to improve successful referral rates.
Rajan SS, Baldwin JL, Giardina TD, et al. J Patient Saf. 2022;18:e262-e266.
Radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology has been most commonly used in perioperative settings to improve patient safety. This study explored whether RFID technology can improve process measures in laboratory settings, such as order tracking, specimen processing, and test result communication. Findings indicate that RFID-tracked orders were more likely to have completed testing process milestones and were completed more quickly.
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.
Carman E-M, Fray M, Waterson P. Appl Ergon. 2021;93:103339.
This study analyzed incident reports, discharge planning meetings, and focus groups with hospital and community healthcare staff to identify barriers and facilitators to safe transitions from hospital to community. Barriers included discharge tasks not being complete, missing or inaccurate information, and limited staff capacity. Facilitators include improved staff capacity and good communication between hospital staff, community healthcare staff, and family members. The authors recommend that hospital and community healthcare staff perspectives be taken into account when designing safe discharge policies.
Zimolzak AJ, Shahid U, Giardina TD, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2022;37:137-144.
Inadequate follow-up of diagnostic testing can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses. Based on interviews with healthcare workers at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the United States, this qualitative study identified factors contributing to lack of timely follow-up of abnormal test results. The most commonly cited factors included trainee/resident involvement, absence of a process to address incidental findings on imaging, lack of standardized electronic health records (EHR) and related tracking systems, and lack of updated patient and provider contact information. The authors summarize participant recommendations to reduce missed test results.
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.
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.
Shaw J, Bastawrous M, Burns S, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:30-35.
Patients who have fallen in their homes and are found by a home healthcare worker are referred to as “found-on-floor” incidents. This study found that length of stay was a key theme in found-on-floor incidents and signaled underlying system-level issues, such as lack of informational continuity across the continuum of care (e.g., lack of standard documentation across settings, unclear messaging regarding clients’ home care needs), reliance on home healthcare workers instead of rehabilitation professionals, and lack of fall assessment follow-up. The authors recommend systems-level changes to improve fall prevention practices, such as use of electronic health records across the continuum of care and enhanced accountability in home safety.
Sundwall DN, Munger MA, Tak CR, et al. Health Equity. 2020;4:430-437.
This study surveyed 9,206 adults across the United States about their perceptions of medical errors occurring in ambulatory care settings. Thirty-six percent of respondents perceived that their doctor has ever made a mistake, provided an incorrect diagnosis, or given an incorrect (or delayed) treatment. According to these findings, patient-perceived medical errors and harms occurred most commonly in women and those in poor health with comorbid conditions.
Lack of timely follow-up of test results is a recognized patient safety problem in primary care and can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses. This study used human factors methods to understand lack of timely follow-up of abnormal test results in outpatient settings. Through interviews with the ordering physicians, the researchers identified several contributing factors, such as provider-patient communication channel mismatch and diffusion of responsibility.
Simulation is a recognized technique to educate and plan to improve care processes and safety. This pair of special issues highlights the use of simulation in nursing and its value in work such as communication enhancement, minority population care, and patient deterioration.
Gallagher R, Passmore MJ, Baldwin C. Med Hypotheses. 2020;142:109727.
The authors of this article suggest that offering palliative care services earlier should be considered a patient safety issue. They highlight three cases in which patients in Canada requested medical assistance in dying (MAiD). The patients in two of the cases were never offered palliative care services, and this could be considered a medical error – had they been offered palliative care services, they may have changed their mind about MAiD, as did the patient in the third case study.
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.
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