Shafer GJ, Singh H, Thomas EJ, et al. J Perinatol. 2022;Epub Mar 4.
Patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are at risk for serious patient safety threats. In this retrospective review of 600 consecutive inborn NICU admissions, researchers found that the frequency of diagnostic errors among inborn NICU patients during the first seven days of admission was 6.2%.
Hensgens RL, El Moumni M, IJpma FFA, et al. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2020;46:1367-1374.
Missed injuries and delayed diagnoses are an ongoing problem in trauma care. This cohort study conducted at a large trauma center found that inter-hospital transfer of severely injured patients increases the risk of delayed detection of injuries. For half of these patients, the new diagnoses led to a change in treatment course. These findings highlight the importance of clinician vigilance when assessing trauma patients.
Bhat A, Mahajan V, Wolfe N. J Clin Neurosci. 2021;85:27-35.
Misdiagnosis, variation in treatment of stroke and gaps in secondary prevention in young patients can result in adverse outcomes. This article discusses the possible causes of implicit bias in stroke care in this population, the effects of bias on patient outcomes, and interventions to circumvent implicit bias.
Mahajan P, Basu T, Pai C-W, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3:e200612.
Using data from a large commercial insurance claims database, this cohort study sought to identify factors associated with potentially missed appendicitis by comparing patients with a potentially missed diagnosis versus patients diagnosed with appendicitis on the same day in the emergency department. The researchers estimated the frequency of missed appendicitis was 6% among adults and 4.4% among children. Patients presenting with abdominal pain and constipation were more likely to have a missed diagnosis of appendicitis than patients presenting with isolated abdominal pain or abdominal pain with nausea and/or vomiting. Stratified analyses based on undifferentiated symptoms found that women and patients with comorbidities were more likely to have missed appendicitis.
Zachariasse JM, Kuiper JW, de Hoog M, et al. J Pediatr. 2016;177:232-237.e1.
Emergency department triage systems are designed to prioritize patients based on the level of illness. Inappropriate triage can lead to delays in care and adverse events. In Europe, the Manchester Triage System is a widely used algorithm that classifies patients based on five levels of urgency with a corresponding maximum waiting time. This study sought to assess the effectiveness of the Manchester Triage System in children requiring admission to the intensive care unit (ICU). Analyzing more than 50,000 consecutive emergency department visits of children younger than 16, the authors determined that almost one third of children admitted to the ICU were undertriaged. Risk factors identified for undertriage included age younger than 3 months, type of medical presenting problem, presence of underlying chronic conditions, referral by a specialist or emergency medical services, and arrival during the evening or at night. These findings suggest that the Manchester Triage System inappropriately triages a significant proportion of children requiring ICU admission and that modifications should be made to improve safety in pediatric emergency care. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed the challenges of triage in the emergency department.
Amaral ACK-B, Barros BS, Barros CCPP, et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014;189:1395-401.
This study revealed that cross-coverage, in which physicians care for patients they have learned about through handoffs, was associated with lower mortality in the intensive care unit. This finding counters persisting concerns about harm related to discontinuity of care. The authors suggest that an independent assessment by a second physician may mitigate cognitive errors.
Lin Y-K, Lin C-J, Chan H-M, et al. Injury. 2014;45:83-7.
Full-time trauma surgeons had a lower incidence of diagnostic errors (defined as the incidence of missed injuries in severely injured patients) compared with surgeons who primarily practiced in other specialties, according to this retrospective analysis of patients admitted to a Taiwanese surgical intensive care unit.
Smits M, Groenewegen PP, Timmermans DRM, et al. BMC Emerg Med. 2009;9:16.
Emergency department (ED) patients are particularly vulnerable to adverse events, and a prior study of closed malpractice claims implicated systems factors such as poor teamwork in adverse patient outcomes. This study used root cause analysis of incident reports to identify the types and causes of errors and unanticipated events in the ED. Incidents included poor communication and teamwork, particularly with other departments, but medication errors and diagnostic errors were also noted. The authors recommend that organizations integrate the ED into hospital-wide safety improvement efforts.
This review found that missed injuries and delayed diagnoses occur frequently, with many of the missed injuries being clinically significant. The authors call for standardized studies using comparable definitions of such injuries.
Griffey RT, Bohan JS. Qual Saf Health Care. 2006;15:344-6.
This study found that other health care providers were a relatively frequent source of complaints for the emergency department, and the issues they raised could be used to identify opportunities to improve quality and safety.
Masoudi FA, Magid DJ, Vinson DR, et al. Circulation. 2006;114:1565-71.
The investigators studied medical records of heart attack victims and found that 12% did not have their tests interpreted correctly in the emergency room and did not receive appropriate care for acute myocardial infarction.
Kachalia A, Gandhi TK, Puopolo AL, et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2007;49:196-205.
This study addressing the causes of missed and delayed diagnoses in emergency department patients used similar methodology as a companion study of error in the ambulatory setting and a prior study of surgical patients. Errors involved a broad range of patients and conditions. As in the outpatient arena, errors generally occurred due to failure to order diagnostic tests or interpret them correctly; factors contributing to error included cognitive factors (ie, physician judgment or knowledge), but system factors (ie, fatigue or communication breakdowns) were involved in a significant proportion of cases. As was also found in the study of ambulatory patients, the multifactorial nature of the errors identifies many potential areas for action but likely defies simple solutions.
Sung S, Forman-Hoffman V, Wilson MC, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2006;21:1075-8.
The investigators surveyed primary care physicians regarding direct notification of results for three specific diagnostic tests. They found that physicians generally favored direct reporting to patients when test results were normal, had less diagnostic severity, or had less potential for emotional impact.
Ursprung R. Qual Saf Health Care. 2005;14:284-289.
This pilot study evaluated the feasibility of using a safety auditing checklist during daily work in an intensive care unit. Investigators developed a 36-item list focused on errors common to this clinical setting and implemented them into rounds on a regular basis for the 5-week study period. Results suggested the ability to detect a variety of errors while engaging staff in a blame-free fashion to stimulate immediate changes in performance. The authors advocate for greater application of safety and error prevention methods into routine clinical work as a mechanism for ongoing quality improvement.
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