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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.

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Care Quality Commission; September 2021.

The safety of maternity care is threatened by inequity. This report analyzes a set of United Kingdom investigation reports to identify issues affecting maternity care to determine their prevalence elsewhere in the system. Problems identified include poor leadership and teamwork, as well as learning and cross-service collaboration.
Gadallah A, McGinnis B, Nguyen B, et al. Int J Clin Pharm. 2021;43(5):1404-1411.
This comparison study assessed the impact of virtual pharmacy technicians (vCPhT) obtaining best possible medication histories from patients admitted to the hospital from the emergency department.  The rates of unintentional discrepancies per medication and incomplete medication histories were significantly lower for vCPhT than other clinicians. Length of stay, readmissions, and emergency department visits were similar for both groups.
Bennion J, Mansell SK. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2021;82(8):1-8.
Many strategies have been developed to improve recognition of, and response, to clinically deteriorating patients. This review found that simulation-based educational strategies was the most effective educational method for training staff to recognize unwell patients. However, the quality of evidence was low and additional research into simulation-based education is needed.
Coldewey B, Diruf A, Röhrig R, et al. Appl Ergon. 2021;98:103544.
Medical devices without user-friendly interface designs may contribute to patient complications. This review explores problems in the use and design of mechanical ventilators that challenge safe use. The authors provide recommendations to product engineers to improve safe ventilator design.
Leibner ES, Baron EL, Shah RS, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;Epub Sep 28.
During the first surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, a rapid redeployment of noncritical care healthcare staff was necessary to meet the unprecedented number of patients needing critical care. A New York health system developed a multidisciplinary simulation training program to prepare the redeployed staff for new roles in the intensive care unit (ICU). The training included courses on management of a patient with acute decompensation with COVID-19, critical care basics for the non-ICU provider, and manual proning of a mechanically ventilated patient.

Manchester, UK: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; October 2021.

This report examines a premature infant death associated with failings of antibiotic administration, deterioration recognition and action on family concerns both during treatment and post-incident. The report issues a series of recommendations building on standard remediation guidance in the United Kingdom.
Hofer IS, Cheng D, Grogan T. Anesth Analg. 2021;133(3):698-706.
Anesthesia-related adverse events have been associated with increased length of stay, morbidity and mortality. This study investigated the effect of missed documentation of select comorbidities on postoperative length of stay and mortality. Results indicate that missed documentation of one of the comorbid conditions increased risk of length of stay, and mortality was increased with missed atrial fibrillation.
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.
Schaffer AC, Babayan A, Einbinder JS, et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2021;138(2):246-252.
Adverse events in obstetrics threaten the safety of both maternal and infant patients. This study identified a significant reduction in malpractice claims among obstetrician-gynecologists after participation in simulation training focused on team training and crisis management.
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.
Morbidity and mortality (M&M) conferences are standard components of medical training programs yet medical residents underutilize incident reporting systems that feed into M&M conferences. To encourage incident reporting among residents, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center launched a web-based, real-time complication reporting platform to capture complications.

Medication administration errors are a common source of patient harm. Developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), MED.Safe is an automated software package designed to monitor high-risk intravenous (IV) medications in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and identify medication administration discrepancies.

Dunbar NM, Delaney M, Murphy MF, et al. Transfusion (Paris). 2021;61(9):2601-2610.
Transfusion errors can have serious consequences. This study compared wrong blood in tube (WBIT) errors in 9 countries across three settings: emergency department, inpatient, and outpatient. Results show emergency department WBIT errors were significantly higher in emergency departments, and that electronic positive patient identification (ePPID) significantly reduced WBIT errors in the emergency department, but not in inpatient or outpatient wards.
Grailey K, Leon-Villapalos C, Murray E, et al. BMJ Open. 2021;11(8):e046699.
Psychological safety enables staff to raise concerns, reduce mistakes and learn from errors. The majority of surveyed intensive care unit staff in three units within one trust in London reported feeling psychologically safe within their teams (e.g. being able to bring up problems). In a novel finding, this study identified potential negative consequences of psychological safety, including distraction and fatigue for team leaders.
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.
Pilosof NP, Barrett M, Oborn E, et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(16):8391.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic changes in healthcare delivery. Based on semi-structured interviews and direct observations, researchers evaluated the impact of a new model of remote inpatient care using telemedicine technologies in response to the pandemic. Intensive care and internal medicine units were divided into contaminated and clean zones and an integrated control room with audio-visual technologies allowed for remote supervision, communication, and support. The authors conclude that this model can increase flexibility in staffing via remote consultations and allow staff to supervise and monitor more patients without compromising patient and staff safety.

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.