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Institute for Safe Medication Practices

The perioperative setting is a high-risk area for medication errors, should they occur. This assessment provides hospitals and outpatient surgical providers a tool to examine their medication use processes and share data nationwide for comparison. Organizational participation can identify strengths and gaps in their systems to design opportunities that prevent patient harm. 

A 78-year-old woman with macular degeneration presented for a pars plana vitrectomy (PPV) under monitored anesthesia care (MAC) with an eye block. At this particular hospital, eye cases under MAC are typically performed with an eye block by the surgeon after the anesthesiologist has administered some short-acting sedation, commonly with remifentanil. On this day, there was a shortage of premixed remifentanil and the resident – who was unfamiliar with the process of drug dilution – incorrectly diluted the remifentanil solution.

Leeftink AG, Visser J, de Laat JM, et al. Ergonomics. 2021:1-11.
Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) is widely used to identify latent safety hazards. The authors of this study proposed combining healthcare failure mode and effect analysis (HFMEA) with computer simulation (HFMEA-CS) for prospective risk analysis of complex and potentially harmful processes. Use of HFMEA-CS to analyze medication processes during admission and discharge for patients with a rare adrenal tumor led to a reduction in drug delivery and system errors, as well as increased drug adherence.

MedWatch Safety Alert. Silver Spring, MD: US Food and Drug Administration; January 27, 2021.  

Labeling mistakes in the pharmaceutical production cycle can remain undetected until the affected medication reaches a patient. This alert reports a recall of a neuromuscular blocker for use in surgery due to it being mislabeled as a medication to increase blood pressure. 
Haché M, Sun LS, Gadi G, et al. Paediatr Anaesth. 2020;30:1348-1354.
The Wake Up Safe initiative includes a registry of serious adverse events occurring in pediatric anesthesia. This study analyzed events reported between 2010 and 2015. The most common anesthesia-related events were medication events, respiratory complications, and cardiac events. Approximately 85% of these events were considered to be preventable.  
Fillo KT. Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, Department of Public Health. Boston, MA: Commonwealth of Massachusetts; 2020.
This annual report compiles patient safety data documented by Massachusetts hospitals. The 2019 numbers represent a modest increase in serious reportable events recorded in acute care hospitals, from 1066 the previous year to 1189. This presentation also includes events from ambulatory surgery centers. Previous years reports are also available.
Meyer TA, McAllister RK. Pharmacy Practice News. March 19, 2018.
Perioperative adverse drug events are common and understudied. Reporting on the complexity of medication administration during surgery, this news article reviews strategies to reduce risks of surgical adverse drug events. Specific tactics discussed include proactive problem identification, medication reconciliation, high-alert medication process vigilance, verbal order reduction, and information technology optimization.
Williams GD, Muffly MK, Mendoza JM, et al. Anesth Analg. 2017;125:1515-1523.
Underreporting of adverse events is a known shortcoming of incident reporting systems. This pre–post study demonstrated an increase in reporting of perioperative adverse events through a multifaceted intervention that included interviewing clinicians about barriers to reporting and creating a local requirement to complete adverse event reports using an electronic incident reporting system. The study team concluded that mandated reporting addresses underuse of incident reporting systems.
Vadera S, Griffith SD, Rosenbaum BP, et al. J Surg Educ. 2015;72:1209-16.
This pre-post study examines the effects of the 2003 ACGME duty hours reform on medication errors among hospitalized surgical patients. The authors hypothesized that the increase in handoffs and a changing attitude toward work—also referred to as a shift-work mentality—might lead to an increase in medication errors. Using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a representative sample of hospitalizations maintained by AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, investigators compared medication error rates for surgical patients between 2000–2003 versus 2003–2011, accounting for trends over time and patient and hospital level covariates. Error rates for teaching hospitals were higher than expected based on patient and hospital characteristics, leading the researchers to conclude that duty hour reform increased medication errors. The magnitude of the effect was modest, and only reached statistical significance for 2 of the 8 years they examined. The effects of duty hours on safety remain controversial, without a clear consensus.
Murff HJ, FitzHenry F, Matheny ME, et al. JAMA. 2011;306:848-55.
Many adverse event identification methods cannot detect errors until well after the event has occurred, as they rely on screening administrative data or review of the entire chart after discharge. Electronic medical records (EMRs) offer several potential patient safety advantages, such as decision support for averting medication or diagnostic errors. This study, conducted in the Veterans Affairs system, reports on the successful development of algorithms for screening clinicians' notes within EMRs to detect postoperative complications. The algorithms accurately identified a range of postoperative adverse events, with a lower false negative rate than the Patient Safety Indicators. As the accompanying editorial notes, these results extend the patient safety possibilities of EMRs to potentially allow for real time identification of adverse events.

Simmons D, ed. Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2010;22:161-290. 

Articles in this special issue discuss safe practices, effective staffing, teamwork, and event analysis to enhance patient safety in the critical care setting.
Frey B, Ersch J, Bernet V, et al. Qual Saf Health Care. 2009;18:446-9.
Parents of hospitalized children feel personally responsible for their children's safety, and efforts are being made to engage parents in safety efforts. This retrospective review of incident reports found more than 100 cases in a 5-year period in which parents were directly involved in adverse events in a pediatric intensive care unit. These included cases where parents detected an adverse event as well as cases where the parents caused the adverse event (for example, by accidentally disconnecting equipment). The authors advocate for development of a safety culture that encourages parents to report concerns, a goal that is a major focus of the Josie King Foundation.
Cranshaw J, Gupta KJ, Cook TM. Anaesthesia. 2009;64:1317-23.
This study analyzed nearly a hundred claims alleging patient harm and categorized them by error type, with the most frequent being drug administration errors. Investigators surmised that less than half the claims could have been prevented by using recommended double checking processes.
Gardner E.
This article describes how one health system markedly improved its quality and safety by applying a safety technique used in the nuclear power industry.
AORN; Association of periOperative Registered Nurses; Watson DS; Beyea SC; Killen A; Knox GE
This special issue includes a series of articles on SafetyNet, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Web-based reporting system launched in 2004 as a part of its Patient Safety First initiative.