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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.

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.
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.

Ofri D. New York Times. January 5, 2021. 

Physicians have unique perspectives when exposed to health care delivery problems as patients themselves or as caregivers. This news story shares the author’s frustrations with the system of care observed during an overnight visit at the bedside of her daughter awaiting an emergency appendectomy. Her experience underscored the value of patients and families engaging in the safety of actions clinicians take when providing care. 
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 latest 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.

American Society of Anesthesiologists, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Pain Alleviation Toolkit.  March 12, 2020.

Communication and shared decision-making are fundamental tactics to guide clinical team and patient efforts to minimize the potential for prescription opioid misuse. This tool kit includes modules for providers that outline practice and communication strategies to help with postoperative pain. Patient and family materials in the kit focus on safe medication disposal and instructions for tracking pre- and post-surgery pain levels.

Chuck E, Assefa H. NBC News. NBC News. February 8, 2020.

Maternal morbidity and perinatal harm can be exacerbated due to implicit bias. This story discusses a case of an American Indian/Alaska Native mother and infants whose deaths may have been preventable had her concerns been more effectively addressed. The situation illustrates conditions in the broader indigenous peoples’ community that indicate a lack of respect and patient-centeredness as factors contributing to poor care.
Buissonniere M. Brooklyn NY: Lifebox and Ariadne Labs; 2020.
Checklists are integrated into error reduction strategies and healthcare team communication efforts worldwide but implementation and impact of the tool varies widely. This report examines the use of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist and barriers to its uptake which include lack of effective staff introduction to the content, misperceptions about the time needed to use the tool and ineffective local contextualization of the content and process.
Dinnen T, Williams H, Yardley S, et al. BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2019.
Advance care planning (ACP) allows patients to express and document their preferences about medical treatment; however, there are concerns about uptake and documentation due to human error. This study used patient safety incident reports in the UK to characterize and explore safety issues arising from ACP and to identify areas for improvement. Over a ten-year period, there were 70 reports of an ACP-related patient safety incident (due to incomplete documentation, inaccessible documentation or miscommunication, or ACP directives not being followed) which led to inappropriate treatment, transfer or admission. The importance of targeting the human factors of the ACP process to improve safety is discussed. A PSNet Human Factors Primer on human factors expands on these concepts.  
Scott J, Heavey E, Waring J, et al. BMC Health Serv Res. 2019;19:613.
This study reports the results of a survey measuring patients' experience of their own safety during care transitions. The survey data were perceived to be useful to physicians and hospital staff to identify potential safety risks and could be used to inform changes to improve care.
Ricciardi R, Shofer M. J Nurs Care Qual. 2019;34:1-3.
This commentary discusses the importance of the nurse-patient relationship and engagement with patients and their family members to improve patient safety practices. The article also provides an overview of AHRQ resources intended to facilitate engagement between providers and their patients and family members.
Appleby J; Lucas E.
Solutions to address the opioid epidemic should focus on both public health and individual behaviors. This news article reports on an analysis of 5 years of Medicare data that revealed particular physician prescribing behaviors that exceed current guidelines and contribute to opioid misuse.

Agency for Health Research Research and Quality; AHRQ

The AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd edition, can help primary care practices reduce the complexity of health care, increase patient understanding of health information, and enhance support for patients of all health literacy levels.
Palmer J. Patient Saf Qual Healthc. May/June 2019.
Organizations must learn from adverse events to prevent similar incidents. Reporting on lessons to be learned from the cascade of failures connected with the preventable death of a patient during an acute asthma attack at the door of a hospital emergency department, this magazine article outlines the importance of effective signage, appropriate security staff placement, and acceptance of the responsibility for failure.
CDC Vital Signs. May 7, 2019.
Maternal morbidity and mortality is a worldwide patient safety problem. This analysis describes the prevalence of pregnancy-related death and areas of concern during pregnancy, at delivery, and up to a year postpartum. It reports that 60% of these deaths are preventable and provides suggestions for families, clinicians, and systems to reduce risks.
Span P.
Cognitive and functional decline can occur as individuals age. Concerns have been raised regarding the need to assess skills of aging physicians. This newspaper article reports on the implementation of mandatory evaluation programs to assess competencies of older surgeons and the profession's response to them.
DeMarco P. Globe Magazine. November 3, 2018.
This magazine article reports on the preventable death of a patient during an acute asthma attack. Written by the patient's husband, the article outlines the failures that led to her death despite the fact that she was at the door of a hospital emergency department and on the phone with an emergency dispatcher. Factors discussed include overreliance on poorly functioning technology, communication failures, and lack of fail-safes.
Beil L. ProPublica. October 2, 2018.
This news article reports on systemic weaknesses that enabled a surgeon with poor skills to continue to perform procedures after numerous surgical errors that resulted in patient harm. A past PSNet perspective explored the risk of recurring medicolegal events among providers who have received unsolicited patient complaints, faced disciplinary actions by medical boards, or accumulated malpractice claims.