Bhise V, Meyer AND, Menon S, et al. Int J Qual Health Care. 2018;30(1):2-8.
Reducing diagnostic error is an area of increasing focus within patient safety. However, little is known about how patients perceive physician communication regarding diagnostic uncertainty. In this study, participants (parents of pediatric patients) were assigned to read one of three clinical vignettes each describing a different approach to a physician communicating diagnostic uncertainty; they were then asked to answer a questionnaire. Researchers found that explicit expression of diagnostic uncertainty by a physician was associated with negative perceptions of physician competence as well as diminished trust and satisfaction with care, whereas more implicit language was not. A past Annual Perspective highlighted some of the challenges associated with diagnostic error.
Southwick FS, Cranley NM, Hallisy JA. BMJ Qual Saf. 2015;24:620-9.
This study analyzed data from an internet-based reporting system that enabled patients and families to describe adverse events. Respondents reported missed and delayed diagnoses, treatment errors, procedural complications, health care–associated infections, and adverse drug events. Most participants did not experience prompt error disclosure but instead faced a denial of responsibility and secretive behavior, which they related to subsequent mistrust. To prevent adverse events, patients and family members suggested using systems approaches (such as universal handwashing and other infection control measures), improving care transitions between providers, ensuring supervision of trainees, and partnering with patients and families for shared decision-making. These findings underscore the importance of error disclosure, effective communication, and allowing patients to report adverse events in order to enhance safety.
Advance care planning (ACP) has become an increasingly utilized process for exploring and communicating patients' preferences for end-of-life care. This multicenter audit of ACP practices across 12 hospitals in Canada found that even when patients and families have completed ACP, inpatient health care providers are not discussing these preferences during hospitalization nor are they documenting these decisions in the medical record. When there was chart documentation, it did not match the patients' expressed wishes more than two-thirds of the time. The majority of audited cases found that patients were prescribed more aggressive care than they would have preferred. An accompanying editorial argues that these types of "silent misdiagnoses" should be considered medical errors, noting that discussions about code status and ACP are "every bit as important to patient safety as a central line placement or a surgical procedure." A previous AHRQ WebM&M commentary discussed ACP and other tools for expressing end-of-life preferences.
Johnson B, Abraham M, Conway J, et al. Bethesda, MD: Institute for Family-Centered Care; April 2008.
This report summarizes results from a conference of consumers, health care professionals, and administrative leaders about improving the health care system and advancing patient-centered care. Key recommendations include involving patients and families in health care leadership, through measures such as patient advisory councils and partnering with community organizations. The report also emphasizes the role of health literacy in providing patient-centered care.
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