Galatzan BJ, Carrington JM. Res Nurs Health. 2021;44(5):833-843.
During handoffs, nurses are exposed to a variety of interruptions and distractions which may lead to cognitive overload. Using natural language processing, researchers analyzed ten audio-recorded change of shift handoffs to estimate the cognitive load experienced by nurses. Nurses’ use of concise language has the potential to decrease cognitive overload and improve patient outcomes.
Lafferty M, Harrod M, Krein SL, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28(12):28(12).
Use of one-way communication technologies, such as pagers, in hospitals have led to workarounds to improve communication. Through observation, shadowing, interviews, and focus groups with nurses and physicians, this study describes antecedents, types, and effects of workarounds and their potential impact on patient safety.
Nurses play a critical role in patient safety through their constant presence at the patient's bedside. However, staffing issues and suboptimal working conditions can impede a nurse’s ability to detect and prevent adverse events.
Rickert J, Lee MJ. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2013-2021.
This quarterly commentary explores a wide range of subjects associated with patient safety, such as the impact of disruptive behavior on teams, the value of apologies, and safety challenges due to COVID-19. Older materials are available online for free.
Demaria J, Valent F, Danielis M, et al. J Nurs Care Qual. 2021;36(3):202-209.
Little empirical evidence exists assessing the association of different nursing handoff styles with patient outcomes. This retrospective study examined the incidence of falls during nursing handovers performed in designated rooms away from patients (to ensure confidentiality and prevent interruptions and distractions). No differences in the incidence of falls or fall severity during handovers performed away from patients versus non-handover times were identified.
Discontinuity is an unfortunate but necessary reality of hospital care. No provider can stay in the hospital around the clock, creating the potential for errors when clinical information is transmitted incompletely or incorrectly between clinicians.
Improving teamwork and communication is a continued focus in the hospital setting. This toolkit is designed to help organizations create a culture that embeds teamwork into daily practice routines. Topics covered include team leadership, learning and continuous improvement, clarifying roles, structured communication, and support for raising concerns.
Mistakes during handoffs from the emergency department (ED) to inpatient units can diminish patient safety. This commentary summarizes how one hospital sought to to avoid miscommunications and disruptions by blocking admission of ED transfers during shift report. However, researchers found that blocking patient transfers did not result in improvements. The project did devise a standardized handoff process that was ultimately employed across the organization as a patient safety strategy.
Gupta A, Harrod M, Quinn M, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2018;5:151-156.
This direct observation study of hospitalist teams on rounds and conducting follow-up work examined the interaction between systems problems and cognitive errors in diagnosis. Researchers found that information gaps related to electronic health records, challenges with handoffs, and time constraints all contributed to difficulties in diagnostic cognition. The authors suggest considering both systems and cognitive challenges to diagnosis in order to promote safety.
Matern LH, Farnan JM, Hirsch KW, et al. Simul Healthc. 2018;13:233-238.
Training resident physicians to use structured handoff tools reduces errors in the care of hospitalized patients. Researchers developed a handoff simulation incorporating the types of noise and distractions that are ubiquitous in hospitals. After training, distracted residents provided the same quality handoff as those able to communicate in a quiet place.
Abebe E, Stone JA, Lester CA, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(6):405-411.
Handoffs present a significant patient safety hazard across multiple health care settings. Interruptions and distractions, which can interfere with handoff communication, are prevalent in pharmacy environments. This cross-sectional survey of community pharmacies found that virtually none of the pharmacists had received training in how to hand off information. A significant proportion of responses indicated that pharmacy information technology systems do not support handoff communication. Respondents reported that handoffs are frequently inadequate or inaccurate. The authors conclude that interventions are needed to enhance the quality of handoff communication in community pharmacy settings to prevent dispensing errors.
Carlile N, Rhatigan JJ, Bates DW. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26(1):24-29.
Despite the ubiquity of smartphones, the vast majority of physicians still rely on one-way pagers for communication. This study analyzed the frequency and content of pages on an internal medicine service at a teaching hospital and compared the data to a similar study performed in 1988. Physicians received an average of 22 pages per day, of which 76% were deemed clinically relevant by independent reviewers and 82% required a response. This represented a nearly 50% increase in the volume of pages compared to 1988. Doctors on regionalized services (where patients were admitted to a common unit) received significantly fewer pages than those caring for patients on nonregionalized services, implying that regionalized services may aid face-to-face communication. As interruptions have been shown to negatively affect patient safety, the authors advocate for developing secure two-way methods of communication (such as secure text messaging) for nurses and physicians in order to improve the efficiency of communication around clinical issues.
Interruptions are a known safety hazard that occur frequently. This systematic review proposes that interruptions be considered a process with various potential consequences for multiple actors rather than single events and suggests a human factors approach to addressing interruptions.
This study surveyed nurses in neonatal intensive care units about missed nursing care. As in other care settings, missed nursing care is significant, and reasons include interruptions, urgent patient situations, and increases in patient volume. This finding underscores the need to enhance nursing workflow to prevent errors of omission.
Nguyen C, McElroy LM, Abecassis MM, et al. Int J Med Inform. 2015;84:101-10.
Pagers have been a mainstay for urgent clinician–clinician communication for many decades. Increasingly physicians are using a variety of electronic devices, including smartphones and Web-based technologies. This systematic review identified 16 articles that studied different technologies for urgent clinician communication. Each strategy had potential advantages and pitfalls. For example, smartphones are associated with decreased transmission time compared to pagers, but they also result in more clinician interruptions. There is very little evidence linking any specific communication method with benefits for patient care. Future study could more robustly explore which forms of communication are best for clinicians and patients. A prior AHRQ WebM&M commentary describes a case of serious patient harm related to a smartphone interruption.
Peterson SM, Gurses AP, Regan L. J Emerg Med. 2014;47:573-9.
According to this study, information regarding the plan of care was generally accurately transmitted during resident handoffs in the emergency department. However, medications were often omitted and residents were frequently interrupted.
Estryn-Behar MR, Milanini-Magny G, Chaumon E, et al. J Patient Saf. 2014;10:29-44.
This direct observation study found that registered nurses, physicians, and nursing aides have frequent interruptions and limited time for shift-change handoffs. This finding suggests that widespread efforts to ensure adequate handoff time and minimize interruptions have not mitigated these problems in hospital settings.
Drawn on a Thursday, basic labs for a 10-year-old girl came back over the weekend showing a high glucose level, but neither the covering physician nor the primary pediatrician saw the results until the patient's mother called on Monday. Upon return to the clinic for follow-up, the child's glucose level was dangerously high and urinalysis showed early signs of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Li SYW, Magrabi F, Coiera E. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012;19(1):6-12.
Interruptions pose a significant safety hazard for health care providers performing complex tasks, such as signout or medication administration. However, as prior research has pointed out, many interruptions are necessary for clinical care, making it difficult for safety professionals to develop approaches to limiting the harmful effects of interruptions. Reviewing the literature on interruptions from the psychology and informatics fields, this study identifies several key variables that influence the relationship between interruption of a task and patient harm. The authors provide several recommendations, based on human factors engineering principles, to mitigate the effect of interruptions on patient care. A case of an interruption leading to a medication error is discussed in this AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
Please select your preferred way to submit a case. Note that even if you have an account, you can still choose to submit a case as a guest. And if you do choose to submit as a logged-in user, your name will not be publicly associated with the case. Learn more information here.