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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.
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.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Ai A, Desai S, Shellman A, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2018;44:674-682.
This study examined ambulatory follow-up of test results by aggregating multiple types of data—national surveys on safety culture and patient satisfaction; patient complaints; safety reports; and electronic health record audits of provider response times. Researchers found an association between quicker response time for test results and higher patient satisfaction. They conclude that merging these disparate data sources can uncover new levers to improve patient safety.
An elderly man with a history of giant cell arteritis (GCA) presented to the rheumatology clinic with recurrent headaches one month after stopping steroids. A blood test revealed that his C-reactive protein was elevated, suggesting increased inflammation and a flare of his GCA. However, his rheumatologist was out of town and did not receive the test result. Although the covering physician saw the result, she relayed just the patient's last name without the medical record number.

Todd DW, Bennett JD, eds. Oral Maxillofac Surg Clin North Am. 2017;29:121-244.

Articles in this special issue provide insights into how human error can affect the safety of oral and maxillofacial surgery, a primarily ambulatory environment. The authors cover topics such as simulation training, wrong-site surgery, and the safety of office-based anesthesia.
Meyer AND, Murphy DR, Singh H. J Am Board Fam Med. 2016;29:469-73.
Gaps in follow-up of abnormal test results are known to contribute to delays in diagnosis in primary care, yet primary care practices still lack standard processes to detect and manage abnormal test results. In this study, investigators identified specific abnormal test results requiring follow-up and tested an escalating strategy of communicating with primary care physicians about test results. The study team first sent a secure email with test results to providers, and if the appropriate diagnostic follow-up action did not occur within one week, they made up to three attempts to reach providers by telephone. Email spurred about 11% of providers to act, and more than two-thirds of providers followed up after receiving telephone calls. For the handful of providers who did not act in response to the email or telephone calls, investigators contacted clinic directors. However, even with this patient-specific communication intervention, follow-up of abnormal test results remained incomplete. These results demonstrate that communicating abnormal results to primary care providers is not sufficient to achieve optimal follow-up. As recommended in the Improving Diagnosis report, team-based results management or technological approaches may be needed to assist primary care providers in tracking and following up on outpatient results to promote timely and accurate diagnosis.
Giardina TD, King BJ, Ignaczak AP, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2013;32:1368-75.
Failure to properly follow up on test results can result in missed or delayed diagnoses. This study from the Veterans Affairs (VA) system reveals the clinical impact of inadequate care processes for patients with urgent follow-up needs. By analyzing 111 root cause analyses of diagnostic error cases in the outpatient setting, the authors determined that poorly coordinated care—arising from a lack of systems to track patients needing urgent evaluation, insufficient follow-up of abnormal test results, and inadequate communication between clinicians—contributed to most of the missed or delayed diagnoses. Although electronic medical records (EMRs) should facilitate responding to abnormal test results, prior VA studies have shown that a small but clinically significant proportion of abnormal laboratory tests and radiology studies are not acted upon in a timely fashion (despite the VA having a fully integrated EMR for more than a decade). The authors advocate for refining EMR systems to better facilitate communication between clinicians and for emphasizing teamwork training in the outpatient setting.
Smith MW, Giardina TD, Murphy DR, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2013;22:1006-13.
In this study, primary care providers frequently relied on extraordinary actions to overcome system barriers in obtaining their patients' timely and safe cancer evaluations. This finding provides evidence that downstream measures, such as timeliness of diagnosis, may fail to detect major system problems.
Scobie A. Int J Qual Health Care. 2011;23:182-6.
Improving patient safety in the ambulatory setting requires the development of new care models, greater utilization of information technology, and a focus on patient factors such as health literacy. Current health policy reform often debates the virtues of international care delivery models as a driver for change. Building on past Commonwealth Fund reports, this study surveyed patients with self-reported chronic disease in eight countries to identify risk factors associated with self-reported errors. Investigators found that errors were associated with a number of factors, including a patient’s age, education level, and prescription drug use. The three risk factors with the greatest relationship to errors were experiencing a care coordination problem, having seen four or more doctors within the past 2 years, and having used the emergency department in the last 2 years. The authors advocate for improved sharing of clinical information (e.g., electronic health records) and specific policy and practices designed to improve care coordination.