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.
Poor communication between hospital and primary care providers can lead to adverse events, such as hospital readmission. In this study of older adults who required medication-related follow-up with their primary care provider, the discharging provider only sent an adequate request for 60% of patients. Of those patients that did not have an adequate request, 14% had a related hospital revisit within 6 months.
Montaleytang M, Correard F, Spiteri C, et al. Int J Clin Pharm. 2021;43:1183-1190.
Previous studies have found that discrepancies between patients’ medication lists and medications they are actually taking are common. This study found that sharing the results of medication reconciliation performed at admission and discharge with patients’ community care providers led to a decrease in medication discrepancies.
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.
Richmond RT, McFadzean IJ, Vallabhaneni P. BMJ Open Qual. 2021;10:e001142.
Timely completion of discharge summaries can improve handoffs with outpatient physicians and ensure communication of potential patient safety problems. This quality improvement project used an established change model to improve the rate of discharge summary completed within 24 hours from less than 10%, to 84% within 2 months.
Ferrara G, De Vincentiis L, Ambrosini-Spaltro A, et al. Am J Clin Pathol. 2021;155:64-68.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to patients delaying or forgoing necessary health care. Comparing the same 10-week period in 2018, 2019 and 2020, researchers used data from seven hospitals in northern-central Italy to assess the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses. Compared to prior years, cancer diagnoses overall fell by 45% in 2020. Researchers noted the largest decrease in cancer diagnoses among skin, colorectal, prostate, and bladder cancers.
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.
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.
Huth K, Stack AM, Hatoun J, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30:208-215.
Over a three-year period, this study audio-recorded handoffs of outpatient clinics to a pediatric emergency department (ED) to determine whether use of a receiver-driven structured handoff intervention can reduce miscommunication and increase perceived quality, safety, and efficacy. Implementation of the tool resulted in a 23% relative reduction in miscommunication and in increased compliance with handoff elements, including illness severity, pending tests, contingency plans, and detailed callback requests, as well as improved perceptions of healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency.
Kutikov A, Weinberg DS, Edelman MJ, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2020;172:756-758.
Oncology patients, as with other patients with chronic health care needs, face numerous challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors discuss the need to balance delays in cancer diagnosis or treatment against the harm of COVID-19 exposure, how to mitigate the risk for significant care disruptions associated with social distancing and managing the allocation of limited healthcare resources during this unprecedented pandemic.
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.
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.
Blease CR, Fernandez L, Bell SK, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:864–868.
Providing patients – particularly elderly, less educated, non-white, and non-English speaking patients – with access to their medical records via ‘open notes’ can improve engagement in care; however, these demographic groups are also less likely to take advantage of these e-tools. The authors summarize the preliminary evidence and propose steps to increasing use of open note portals among disadvantaged patients.
Fox MT, Godage SK, Kim JM, et al. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2020;59:266-277.
This study used focus groups and a survey to identify systems-level approaches improving communication with patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). The majority of survey respondents reported less confidence communicating and forming relationships with LEP patients compared to English-proficient patients. While interpreter use has been shown to improve care for LEP patients, this study found that workflow constraints, supply-demand issues, variable interpretation quality, and gaps in communication interpretation services are barriers to interpreter use. A prior WebM&M Spotlight Case addresses the increased risk of error when communicating with LEP 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.
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.
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.
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