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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.
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.
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.
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.  

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.
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.
Given BA. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2019;35:374-379.
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.
Hochman M, Bourgoin A, Saluja S, et al. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; March 2019. AHRQ Publication No. 18(19)-0055-EF.
Programs are in place to address hospital discharge process gaps that contribute to readmissions. This report summarizes research on primary care perspectives on reducing readmissions. Interventions identified include automated alerting to primary care providers when patients are hospitalized and the patient-centered medical home model.
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.
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.
Zuccotti G, Samal L, Maloney FL, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2018;168:820-821.
Failure to follow up abnormal test results can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis. Using data from a single institution, researchers observed that while more than 99% of abnormal mammograms received appropriate follow-up, only 91% of abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) smears did. They suggest that improving workflow processes and ensuring appropriate use of health information technology can help optimize test result follow-up.
Rattray NA, Sico JJ, Cox LAM, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2017;43:127-137.
Communication between inpatient clinicians and primary care physicians at the time of hospital discharge is often suboptimal, and it may not have improved with the advent of electronic health records. This qualitative study examined barriers to inpatient–outpatient communication in the care of stroke patients and found that clear communication is needed to ensure effective handoffs.
Roter DL, Wolff J, Wu A, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26:508-512.
Effective team communication is a key component of safe care. This commentary discusses the role of patient–family partnerships in enhancing health care safety in ambulatory and home settings. The authors describe a communication intervention to improve patient and family collaboration during ambulatory care visits. Components of the approach included engaging family participation in routine visits and coaching them to ask questions.
Price EL, Sewell JL, Chen AH, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2016;42:341-54.
Outpatient practices are increasingly using electronic referrals, or eConsults, to obtain clinical input from specialists because of insufficient access to subspecialty care. In an eConsult, the referring clinician (usually a primary care physician) will provide clinical information to the specialist via email or a web-based system. The specialist will review the information in the electronic medical record and decide whether further testing, treatment, or an in-person consultation is necessary. This retrospective study evaluated the safety of the electronic referral process by reviewing the medical records of patients who had been referred to a gastroenterology clinic and were not scheduled for in-person appointments. Investigators sought to determine the number of patients deemed not to require appointments and how many remained unscheduled. Emergency care or hospitalization for the referral complaint was rare overall; however, among patients whose electronic referrals remained unresolved (when investigators could find no decision regarding need for in-person visit and symptoms prompting referral were not addressed in the medical record), more than 70% were at moderate to high risk of potential harm. These cases included many patients who had no documented health care visits in the 6 months after the electronic referral was placed. Although the authors did not identify any definitive cases of harm attributable to failures of the electronic referral process, this study does highlight the need for robust tracking of eConsults to ensure appropriate follow-up by referring providers.
Gardner LA. PA-PSRS Patient Saf Advis. 2016;13:58-65.
Insufficient health literacy is a known patient safety hazard. This article reviews incidents submitted to a state reporting initiative where insufficient patient understanding may have played a role in delayed or missed care and describes a program to encourage adoption of teach-back and other strategies to help patients better comprehend their health care instructions. A past PSNet perspective discussed the role of health literacy in patient safety.
Jackson PD, Biggins MS, Cowan L, et al. Rehabil Nurs. 2016;41:135-48.
Transitions are a complicated and vulnerable time for patients, particularly for those with complex care needs. This review examines the literature around care transitions and insights from patient and family advisory councils. The authors recommend standardizing the process for veterans with complex conditions and suggest focus on the use of real-time information exchange, documented care plans, and engaging patients and their families in transitions.