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.
Gurwitz JH, Kapoor A, Garber L, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2021;181:610-618.
High-risk medications have the potential to cause serious patient harm if not administered correctly. In this randomized trial, a pharmacist-directed intervention (including in-home assessment by a clinical pharmacist, communication with the primary care team, and telephone follow-up) did not result in a lower rate of adverse drug events or medication errors involving high-risk drug classes during the posthospitalization period.
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.
Chaudhry H, Nadeem S, Mundi R. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2021;479:47-56.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the use of telehealth across various medical specialties.This systematic review did not identify any differences in patient or surgeon satisfaction or patient-reported outcomes with telehealth for orthopedic care delivery as compared to in-person visits.However, the authors note that the included studies did not adequately capture or report safety endpoints, such as complications or missed diagnoses.
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.
Ricci-Cabello I, Gangannagaripalli J, Mounce LTA, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e20-e27.
Patient safety in primary care is an emerging focus. This cross-sectional study across primary care clinics in England explored the main factors contributing to patient-reported harm experiences. Factors included incidents related to communication, care coordination, and incorrect or delayed; diagnosis and/or treatment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mays JA, Mathias PC. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2019;26:269-272.
Point-of-care test results are often manually transcribed into the electronic health record, which introduces risks of manual transcription errors. The authors of this study took advantage of a redundant workflow in which point-of-care blood glucose results were uploaded and also manually entered by staff. They estimate that 5 in 1000 manually entered results contain clinically significant transcription errors and call for interfacing point-to-care instruments as a patient safety strategy.
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.
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