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Gregory H, Cantley M, Calhoun C, et al. Am J Emerg Med. 2021;46:266-270.
Medication safety continues to be a challenge in most healthcare settings, including emergency departments. In this academic emergency department, an overall error rate of 16.5% was observed, including errors in directions, quantity prescribed, and prescriptions written with refills. Involving a pharmacist at discharge may increase patient safety.
Mirarchi FL, Cammarata C, Cooney TE, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(6):458-466.
Prior research found significant confusion among physicians in understanding Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) documents, which can lead to errors. This study found that emergency medical services (EMS) personnel did not exhibit adequate understanding of all POLST or living will documents either. The researchers propose that patient video messaging can increase clarity about treatment, and preserve patient safety and autonomy.
Jagneaux T, Caffery TS, Musso MW, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(6):425-429.
Emergency and internal medicine residents attended a course on central venous access that included lectures, videos, and simulation using a task trainer. Comparison of pre- and post-training evaluation demonstrated significant improvement in knowledge, confidence, and procedural skills.
Keister LA, Stecher C, Aronson B, et al. BMC Public Health. 2021;21(1):1518.
Constrained diagnostic situations in the emergency department (ED), such as crowding, can impact safe care. Based on multiple years of electronic health record data from one ED at a large U.S. hospital, researchers found that providers were significantly less likely to prescribe opioids during constrained diagnostic situations and less likely to prescribe opioids to high-risk patients or racial/ethnic minorities.
Petrosoniak A, Fan M, Hicks CM, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30(9):739-746.
Trauma resuscitation is a complex, specialized process with a high risk for errors. Researchers analyzed videotapes of in situ simulations to evaluate latent safety events occurring during trauma resuscitation. Themes influencing latent safety events related to physical workspace, mental model formation, equipment, unclear accountability, demands exceeding individuals’ capacity, and task-specific issues.

A 31-year-old woman presented to the ED with worsening shortness of breath and was unexpectedly found to have a moderate-sized left pneumothorax, which was treated via a thoracostomy tube. After additional work-up and computed tomography (CT) imaging, she was told that she had some blebs and mild emphysema, but was discharged without any specific follow-up instructions except to see her primary care physician.

Vaghani V, Wei L, Mushtaq U, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;Epub Jul 20.
Based on the SaferDx and SPADE frameworks, researchers applied a symptom-disease pair-based electronic trigger (e-trigger) to identify patients hospitalized for stroke who had been previously discharged from the emergency department with a diagnosis of headache or dizziness in the preceding 30 days. Analyses show that the e-trigger identified missed diagnoses of stroke with a modest positive predictive value.
Rocha HM, Farre AGM, Santana Filho VJ. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2021;53(4):458-467.
Patient boarding in the emergency department (ED) can result in patient harm. This review explored the association between boarding in the ED and quality of care, outcomes, and adverse events. Increased boarding time was associated with poorer quality of care and outcomes.

James Augustine, MD, is the National Director of Prehospital Strategy at US Acute Care Solutions where he provides service as a Fire EMS Medical Director. We spoke with him about threats and concerns for patient safety for EMS when responding to a 911 call.

Allison MK, Marshall SA, Stewart G, et al. J Emerg Med. 2021;Epub Jun 29.
Transgender and gender nonbinary (trans/NB) people can face discriminatory behaviors when accessing health care services. Trans/NB patients were interviewed about their experiences accessing care in emergency departments. Four themes were uncovered: 1) system and structural issues; 2) interactions with clinicians/staff; 3) perceptions of clinician knowledge and education; and 4) impact on future health and healthcare access. Recommendations for improvement were provided at the system and clinician level.
Werner NE, Rutkowski RA, Krause S, et al. Appl Ergon. 2021;96:103509.
Shared mental models contribute to effective team collaboration and communication. Based on interviews and thematic analysis, the authors explored mental models between the emergency department (ED) and skilled nursing facility (SNF). The authors found that these healthcare professionals had misaligned mental models regarding communication during care transitions and healthcare setting capability, and that these misalignments led to consequences for patients, professionals, and the organization.
Marang-van de Mheen PJ, Vincent CA. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30(7):525-528.
Research has shown that patients admitted to the hospital on the weekend may experience worse outcomes compared to those admitted on weekdays (the ‘weekend effect’). This editorial highlights the challenges to empirically evaluate the underlying mechanisms contributing to the weekend effect. The authors propose viewing the weekend effect as a proxy for staffing levels and the influence of other factors influencing outcomes for patients admitted on weekends, such as patient acuity, clinician skill-mix and access to diagnostic tests or other ancillary services.
Nikouline A, Quirion A, Jung JJ, et al. CJEM. 2021;Epub Apr 30.
Trauma resuscitation is a complex, specialized care process with a high risk for errors. This systematic review identified 39 unique errors occurring in trauma resuscitation involving emergency medical services (EMS) handover; airway management; inadequate assessment and/or management of injuries; inadequate monitoring, transfusion/blood-related errors; team communication errors; procedure-related errors; or errors in disposition.
Worsham CM, Woo J, Jena AB, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2021;40(6):970-978.
Adolescent patients transitioning from pediatric to adult medicine may experience patient safety risks. Using a large commercial insurance claims database, the authors compared opioid prescribing patterns and risk for opioid-related adverse events (overdose, opioid use disorder, or long-term use) among adolescents transitioning from “child” to “adult” at 18 years of age. The authors estimate a 14% increased risk for an opioid-related adverse outcome within one year when “adults” just over age 18 years were prescribed opioids that would not have been prescribed if they were under 18 years and considered “children.” The authors discuss how systematic differences in how pediatric and adult patients may be treated can lead to differences in opioid prescribing.

Raz M, Pouryahya P, eds. Singapore; Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd; 2021. ISBN 9789811601422.

Decision making is vulnerable to human influences such as fatigue, interruption and bias. This book provides case examples of how 60 cognitive biases can degrade clinical reasoning in the emergency department and shares tactics that minimize their potential impact on thinking.

Beginning in her teenage years, a woman began "feeling woozy" after high school gym class. The symptoms were abrupt in onset, lasted between 5 to 15 minutes and then subsided after sitting down. Similar episodes occurred occasionally over the following decade, usually related to stress. When she was in her 30s, she experienced a more severe episode of palpitations and went to the emergency department (ED). An electrocardiogram (ECG) was normal and she was discharged with a diagnosis of stress or possible panic attack.

Thomas J, Dahm MR, Li J, et al. Health Expect. 2021;24(2):222-233.
Missed or failure to follow up on test results threatens patient safety. This qualitative study used volunteers to explore consumer perspectives related to test result management. Participants identified several challenges that patients experience with test-results management, including systems-level factors related to the emergency department and patient-level factors impacting understanding of test results.

A 65-year-old man with a history of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and coronary artery disease was transferred from a Level III trauma center to a Level I trauma center with lower extremity paralysis after a ground level fall complicated by a 9-cm abdominal aortic aneurysm and cervical spinal cord injury. Post transfer, the patient was noted to have rapidly progressive ascending paralysis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed severe spinal stenosis involving C3-4 and post-traumatic cord edema/contusion involving C6-7.