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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. 

Gupta K, Szymonifka J, Rivadeneira NA, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2022;Epub May 28.
Analysis of closed malpractice claims can be used to identify potential safety hazards in a variety of clinical settings. This analysis of closed emergency department malpractice claims indicates that diagnostic errors dominate, and clinical judgment and documentation categories continue to be associated with a higher likelihood of payout. Subcategories and contributing factors are also discussed.

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.
Shafer GJ, Singh H, Thomas EJ, et al. J Perinatol. 2022;Epub Mar 4.
Patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are at risk for serious patient safety threats. In this retrospective review of 600 consecutive inborn NICU admissions, researchers found that the frequency of diagnostic errors among inborn NICU patients during the first seven days of admission was 6.2%.
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.

London, UK: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; 2021. ISBN 9781528627016. 

Lack of appropriate follow up of diagnostic imaging can result in care delays, patient harm, and death. This report summarizes an investigation of 25 imaging failures in the British National Health Service (NHS). The analysis identified communication and coordination issues resulting in lack of action and reporting of unanticipated findings to properly advance care. Recommendations to improve imaging in the NHS include use of previous analyses to enhance learning from failure.
Hensgens RL, El Moumni M, IJpma FFA, et al. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2020;46:1367-1374.
Missed injuries and delayed diagnoses are an ongoing problem in trauma care. This cohort study conducted at a large trauma center found that inter-hospital transfer of severely injured patients increases the risk of delayed detection of injuries. For half of these patients, the new diagnoses led to a change in treatment course. These findings highlight the importance of clinician vigilance when assessing trauma patients.
Muhrer JC. Nurs Pract. 2021;46:44-49.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to wide-ranging changes to health care delivery, some of which may negatively impact patient outcomes.The authors use a syndemic perspective to discuss existing challenges interfering with diagnosis (structural, socioeconomic, patient-related, and provider-related), how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those challenges, and strategies related to nurse practitioners and community health workers to improve diagnosis.  
Bhat A, Mahajan V, Wolfe N. J Clin Neurosci. 2021;85:27-35.
Misdiagnosis, variation in treatment of stroke and gaps in secondary prevention in young patients can result in adverse outcomes. This article discusses the possible causes of implicit bias in stroke care in this population, the effects of bias on patient outcomes, and interventions to circumvent implicit bias.  

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.

Dolan J, Mejia B. Los Angeles Times. September 30, 2020.

Socioeconomic conditions influence access to health care, and as a result, reduce its safety and reliability. This story describes how inequity can affect the care of disadvantaged patient populations and shares data on wait times for specialty care in Los Angeles County that contributed to costly diagnostic and treatment delays.
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.

Farnborough, UK:  Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; March 2020.

Missed or delayed diagnosis in maternal care can result in serious harm to both the mother and the child. This report analyzes a delayed diagnosis ectopic pregnancy incident and found that referral and discharge missteps contributed to the error.
Lacson R, Healey MJ, Cochon LR, et al. J Am Coll Radiol. 2020;17:765-772.
Radiological exams are often ordered but go unscheduled, which can delay diagnoses and lead to other medical errors. In this retrospective study at one academic institution, the clinical necessity of 700 unscheduled radiologic examination orders (100 from each of seven different radiographic modalities) was examined. Study results indicate that, except for CT, obstetric ultrasound and fluoroscopy radiologic tests, the majority of unscheduled orders are clinically necessary and that 7% of all radiologic examination orders remain unscheduled a month or more after the order was placed.

Halamek LP, ed. Semin Perinatol. 2019;43(8):151172-151182.
 

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a complex environment that serves a vulnerable population at increased risk for harm should errors occur. This special issue draws from a multidisciplinary set of authors to explore patient safety issues arising in the NICU. Included in the issue are articles examining topic such as video assessment, diagnostic error, and human factors engineering in the NICU.