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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.

Cooper A, Carson-Stevens A, Cooke M, et al. BMC Emerg Med. 2021;21(1):139.
Overcrowding in the emergency department (ED) can result in increased frequency of medication errors, in-hospital cardiac arrest, and other patient safety concerns. This study examined diagnostic errors after introducing a new healthcare service model in which emergency departments are co-located with general practitioner (GP) services. Potential priority areas for improvement include appropriate triage, diagnostic test interpretation, and communication between GP and ED services.

An 18-year-old man with a history of untreated depression and suicide attempts (but no history of psychiatric hospitalizations) was seen in the ED for suicidal ideation after recent gun purchase. Due to suicidal ideation, he was placed on safety hold and a psychiatric consultation was requested. The psychiatry team recommended discharge with outpatient therapy; he was discharged with outpatient resources, the crisis hotline phone number, and strict return precautions.

Mital R, Lovegrove MC, Moro RN, et al. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2021;Epub Nov 11.
Accidental ingestion of over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines (CCMs) among children can result in adverse events. This study used national surveillance data to characterize emergency department (ED) visits for harms related to OTC CCM use and discusses differences by patient demographics, intent of use, and concurrent substance use.

National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester; May 31, 2021

System failures require multifactorial assessment to install targeted improvements. This toolkit examines 10 areas of focus for organizations to assess the safety of mental health services in emergent and primary care settings to minimize patient suicide and self-harm. Areas of focus include post-discharge follow-up, admissions, and family engagement.
Trost SL, Beauregard JL, Smoots AN, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2021;40(10):1551-1559.
Missed diagnosis of mental health conditions can lead to serious adverse outcomes. Researchers evaluated data from 2008 to 2017 from 14 state Maternal Mortality Review Committees and found that 11% of pregnancy-related deaths were due to mental health conditions. A substantial proportion of people with a pregnancy-related mental health cause of death had a history of depression or past/current substance use. Researchers conclude that addressing gaps maternal mental health care is essential to improving maternal safety.

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 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.
Chua K-P, Brummett CM, Conti RM, et al. Pediatrics. 2021;148(3):e2021051539.
Despite public policies and guidelines to reduce opioid prescribing, providers continue to overprescribe these medications to children, adolescents, and young adults. In this analysis of US retail pharmacy data, 3.5% of US children and young adults were dispensed at least one opioid prescription; nearly half of those included at least one factor indicating they were high risk. Consistent with prior research, dentists and surgeons were the most frequent prescribers, writing 61% of all opiate prescriptions.

Fourth Report of Session 2021–22. House of Commons Health Committee. London, England: The Stationery Office; July 6, 2021. Publication HC 19. 

High-profile failures motivate examination and change of existing services. This report builds on maternity care failures in National Health Service trusts to recommend needed changes in learning from failure to effectively support clinicians providing maternity care, provide patient-centered care to mothers and babies, and learn from untoward incidents to enhance care safety.
Kruper A, Domeyer-Klenske A, Treat R, et al. J Surg Educ. 2021;78(3):1024-1034.
Physicians commonly experience adverse psychological outcomes after being involved in an adverse event. This mixed-methods study of health care providers in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at one large academic hospital found that three-quarters of providers experienced symptoms of traumatic stress after involvement in an adverse event. Respondents reporting anxiety were more likely to be interested in peer-to-peer support programs, whereas those reporting symptoms of guilt preferred debriefing sessions.

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.

Rosen IEW, Shiekh RM, Mchome B, et al. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2021;100(4):704-714.
Improving maternal safety is an ongoing patient safety priority. This systematic review concluded that maternal near miss events are negatively associated with various aspects of quality of life. Women exposed to maternal near miss events were more likely to have overall lower quality of life, poorer mental and social health, and suffer negative economic consequences.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. June 7-8, 2021.

Maternal safety is challenged by clinical, equity, and social influences. This virtual event examined maternal health conditions in the United States to improve health system practice and performance for this population. Discussions addressed the need for better data collection, evidence-based practice, and social determinants knowledge integration to enhance the safety of care.

Weiser S. The New Yorker and Retro Report; 2021.

Disparities in maternal care have become apparent as a public health concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. This short film spotlights inequities and biases that Black mothers face, that reduce the safety of their care. Midwives are offered as a strategy for improving the safety of maternal care in this patient population.
Park Y, Hu J, Singh M, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(4):e213909.
Machine learning uses data and statistical methods to enhance risk prediction models and it has been promoted as a tool to improve healthcare safety. Using Medicaid claims data for a large cohort of White and Black pregnant females, this study evaluated approaches to reduce bias in clinical prediction algorithms for postpartum depression and mental health service utilization. The researchers found that a reweighing method in machine learning models was associated with a greater reduction in bias than excluding race from the prediction models. The authors suggest further examination of potentially biased data informing clinical prediction models and consideration of other methods to mitigate bias.
Lippke S, Derksen C, Keller FM, et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(5):2616.
Communication is an essential component of safe patient care. This review of 71 studies found that communication training interventions in obstetrics can improve communication skills and behavior, particularly when combined with team training. The authors identified a lack of evidence regarding the effect of communication trainings on patient safety outcomes and suggest that future research should assess this relationship. Study findings underscore the need for adequate communication trainings to be provided to all staff and expectant mothers and their partners.
Carvalho IV, Sousa VM de, Visacri MB, et al. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021;37(4):e152-e158.
This study sought to determine the rate of pediatric emergency department (ED) visits due to adverse drug events (ADE). Of 1,708 pediatric patients, 12.3% were admitted to the ED due to ADEs, with the highest rates of admission due to neurological, dermatological, and respiratory medications. The authors recommend the involvement of clinical pharmacists to prevent and identify ADEs in the pediatric population, particularly through education of children’s caregivers and health professionals.
Ash JS, Corby S, Mohan V, et al. J Amer Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28(2):294-302.
The use of medical scribes for electronic health record (EHR) documentation is one strategy to shift the burden of documentation away from clinicians. Using interviews and direct observations, the authors explored the effects of scribes on patient safety. Participants did not perceive significant patient safety risks with scribes and highlighted the positive effects scribes have on documentation efficiency, quality, and safety.