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The medication-use process is highly complex with many steps and risk points for error, and those errors are a key target for improving safety. This Library reflects a curated selection of PSNet content focused on medication and drug errors. Included resources explore understanding harms from preventable medication use, medication safety improvement strategies, and resources for design.

Gibson BA, McKinnon E, Bentley RC, et al. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2021;Epub Oct 21.
A shared understanding of terminology is critical to providing appropriate treatment and care. This study assessed pathologist and clinician agreement of commonly-used phrases used to describe diagnostic uncertainty in surgical pathology reports. Phrases with the strongest agreement in meaning were “diagnostic of” and “consistent with”. “Suspicious for” and “compatible with” had the weakest agreement. Standardized diagnostic terms may improve communication.
De Cassai A, Negro S, Geraldini F, et al. PLoS One. 2021;16(9):e0257508.
Inattentional blindness occurs when individuals miss an unexpected event due to competing attentional tasks.  This study asked anesthesiologists to review the anesthetic management of five simulated cases, one of which included the image of a gorilla in the radiograph, to evaluate inattentional blindness. Only 4.9% of social media respondents reported an abnormality, suggesting that inattentional blindness may be common; the authors suggest several strategies to reduce this error.
Ly DP. Ann Emerg Med. 2021;78(5):650-657.
A common type of diagnostic error is availability bias, or diagnosing a patient based on experiences with past similar cases. This study examined whether an emergency physician’s recent experience of a patient presenting with shortness of breath and diagnosed with pulmonary embolism increased subsequent pulmonary embolism diagnoses. While pulmonary embolism diagnosis did increase over the following ten days, that effect did not persist over the 50 days following the first 10 days.

Understanding the ways in which human factors, such as non-technical skills, influence individual and team performance can ultimately improve patient safety, particularly in high-intensity settings such as operating rooms. The Observation of Non-technical Skills and Teamwork (ONSet) program, created by the Cambridge University Hospitals, uses observation and feedback from Human Factors Champions to evaluate the impact of human factors education in operating rooms.

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.

Khidir H, McWilliams JM, O’Malley AJ, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(9):e2125193.
While racial, ethnic, and gender biases have been widely documented at the system level, it has not been well documented at the individual physician level. This analysis of 4.5 million emergency department visits in the US showed variation in hospital admission rates among physicians, but an individual physician’s propensity to admit patients did not vary by patient sociodemographic group.
US Food and Drug Administration. October 7, 2021.
Errors of commission during complex procedures can contribute to patient harm. Drawing from an analysis of medical device reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, this updated announcement seeks to raise awareness of common adverse events associated with surgical staplers and implantable staples. User-related problems include opening of the staple line, misapplied staples, and staple gun difficulties. Recommendations include ensuring availability of various staple sizes and avoiding use of staples on large blood vessels.

This case describes multiple emergency department (ED) encounters and hospitalizations experienced by a middle-aged woman with sickle cell crisis and a past history of multiple, long admissions related to her sickle cell disease. The multiple encounters highlight the challenges of opioid prescribing for patients with chronic, non-cancer pain.

A 44-year-old man presented to his primary care physician (PCP) with complaints of new onset headache, photophobia, and upper respiratory tract infections. He had a recent history of interferon treatment for Hepatitis C infection and a remote history of cervical spine surgery requiring permanent spinal hardware. On physical examination, his neck was tender, but he had no neurologic abnormalities. He was sent home from the clinic with advice to take over-the-counter analgesics.

Ellis R, Hardie JA, Summerton DJ, et al. Surg. 2021;59(7):752-756.
Many non-urgent, non-cancer surgeries were postponed or canceled during COVID-19 surges resulting in a potential loss of surgeons’ “currency”. This commentary discusses the benefits of, and barriers to, dual surgeon operating as a way to increase currency as elective surgeries are resumed.
D'Angelo JD, Lund S, Busch RA, et al. Surgery. 2021;170(2):440-445.
This study evaluated the type and effectiveness of resident and faculty coping strategies following an intraoperative error and the interaction with physician gender. Results show that while men and women surgeons experience adverse events at approximately the same rate, the coping methods utilized and effectiveness of the methods varied.
Sidi A, Gravenstein N, Vasilopoulos T, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(6):e490-e496.
Nontechnical skills, such as teamwork and communication, can influence performance in technical fields like surgery or emergency medicine. This study found that simulation-based assessments can measure improvements in nontechnical skills and cognitive performance among residents.

Ellis NT, Broaddus A. CNN. August 25, 2021. 

Maternal safety is an ongoing challenge worldwide. This news feature examines how the COVID pandemic has revealed disparities and implicit biases that impact the maternal care of black women. The stories shared highlight experiences of mothers with preventable pregnancy-related complications.

Ensuring maternal safety is a patient safety priority. This library reflects a curated selection of PSNet content focused on improving maternal safety. Included resources explore strategies with the potential to improve maternal care delivery and outcomes, such as high reliability, care standardization, teamwork, unit-based safety initiatives, and trigger tools.

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.

MedWatch Safety Alert. Silver Spring, MD: US Food and Drug Administration; August 20, 2021.
This announcement seeks to raise awareness of the potential risks associated with the use of robotic-assisted surgical devices in mastectomies or cancer-related care. Recommendations for patients who may seek to have robotically assisted surgery include asking about their surgeon's experience with these procedures and discussing benefits, risks, and alternatives regarding available treatment options with their health care provider. Suggestions for health care providers include completing specialized training on procedures they perform. A WebM&M commentary described the challenges and benefits associated with robotic surgery.
Nanji K. UpToDate. Aug 11, 2021.
Perioperative adverse drug events are common and understudied. This review examines factors that contribute to adverse drug events in the surgical setting and discusses prevention strategies that focus on medication reconciliation, technology, standardization, and institutional change.