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The focus on patient safety in the ambulatory setting was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and appropriately shifting priorities to responding to the pandemic. This piece explores some of the core themes of patient safety in the ambulatory setting, including diagnostic safety and diagnostic errors. Ways to enhance patient safety in the ambulatory care setting and next steps in ambulatory care safety are addressed. 

Washington, DC: VA Office of the Inspector General; June 28, 2022. Report No 21-03349-186.

 Cancer test communication failures can contribute to physical, emotional, and financial patient harm. This report examines missed opportunities made by multiple clinicians involved in the care of a patient with prostate cancer who then died from metastasized disease Seven recommendations are included for improving abnormal test result communication and error management at the facility.
Lacson R, Khorasani R, Fiumara K, et al. J Patient Saf. 2022;18:e522-e527.
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.

Cleghorn E. New York, NY: Dutton; 2021. ISBN: 9780593182956.

Women have been affected by implicit bias that undermines the safety of their care and trust in the medical system. This book shares the history anchoring the mindsets driving ineffective care for women and a discussion of the author’s long-term lupus misdiagnosis.

Medscape Medical News. May 12, 2021.

Delays and mistakes in health care for distinct patient populations hold improvement lessons for the broader system. This news story highlights problems in correctional system cancer diagnoses and treatment that may indicate other types of prison care delivery problems.
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.
Erkelens DC, Rutten FH, Wouters LT, et al. J Patient Saf. 2022;18:40-45.
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.   
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.

Coulthard P, Thomson P, Dave M, et al. Br Dent J. 2020;229:743-747; 801-805.  

The COVID-19 pandemic suspended routine dental care. This two-part series discusses the clinical challenges facing the provision of routine dental care during the pandemic (Part 1) and the medical, legal, and economic consequences of withholding or delaying dental care (Part 2).  

After a breast mass was identified by a physician assistant during a routine visit, a 60-year-old woman received a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The radiology assessment was challenging due to dense breast tissue and ultimately interpreted as “probably benign” findings. When the patient returned for follow-up 5 months later, the mass had increased in size and she was referred for a biopsy.

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.  
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.  

Levett-Jones T, ed. Clin Sim Nurs. 2020;44(1):1-78; 2020;45(1):1-60.

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.   
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.