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O'Connor K, Neff DM, Pitman S. Eur Psychiatry. 2018;53:74-99.
Clinician burnout has been associated with decreased job satisfaction. Burnout may also be detrimental to patient safety. This systematic review and meta-analysis found high rates of burnout among mental health professionals. The authors recommend strategies to address burnout including promoting professional autonomy, developing teamwork, and providing quality clinical supervision.
Müller M, Jürgens J, Redaèlli M, et al. BMJ Open. 2018;8:e022202.
Standardized handoff tools are increasingly implemented to improve communication between health care providers. Although this systematic review identified several studies supporting the use of SBAR as a communication tool to improve patient safety, the authors suggest the evidence is moderate and that further research is needed.
O'Sullivan ED, Schofield SJ. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2018;48:225-232.
Cognitive biases can lead to unnecessary treatment and delays in diagnosis. This commentary reviews examples of bias that commonly occur in medical practice and describes debiasing tactics to help improve decision-making.
Griffiths P, Recio-Saucedo A, Dall'Ora C, et al. J Adv Nurs. 2018;74:1474-1487.
Inadequate hospital nurse staffing is linked to increased mortality. This systematic review found that lower nurse staffing is associated with more reports of missed nursing care. Two of the authors summarized the science of missed nursing care in a recent PSNet perspective.
Armstrong N, Brewster L, Tarrant C, et al. Soc Sci Med. 2018;198:157-164.
Measuring patient safety is critical to improvement. This ethnographic study examined the implementation of a patient safety measurement program in the United Kingdom, the NHS Safety Thermometer, which measured incidence of pressure ulcers, harm from falls, catheter-associated urinary tract infection, and venous thromboembolism, with the goal of informing local improvement efforts. Investigators sought to examine how the measurement program was perceived by frontline staff. Despite the explicit emphasis on using the data for improvement, it was viewed as an external reporting requirement. The program was also viewed as a basis to compare organizations, especially because it included pay-for-performance incentives. The authors suggest that the intention of the program did not match the real-world considerations of participating health care systems and had the unintended consequence of creating potential for blame.
Parshuram CS, Dryden-Palmer K, Farrell C, et al. JAMA. 2018;319:1002-1012.
Identifying incipient clinical deterioration is a prerequisite for rapid response and prevention of harm for hospitalized patients. This study tested a bedside pediatric early warning system, which included an illness severity score, standardized documentation, and monitoring protocols. In a cluster-randomized trial in several high-income countries, implementation of the bundle did not result in decreased in-hospital mortality compared to usual care. The overall mortality rate in the study was less than 0.2%. The authors suggest that this unexpectedly low mortality rate may have made it difficult to detect differences in intervention versus control hospitals. A related editorial suggests that artificial intelligence should be used to identify clinical deterioration and that outcomes beyond mortality should be considered in their evaluation.
Ravn-Nielsen LV, Duckert M-L, Lund ML, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178:375-382.
Preventable harm is common during and after hospital discharge. Pharmacist-delivered medication reconciliation has been proposed as a strategy to reduce adverse medication events and readmissions. Investigators conducted a three-arm randomized controlled trial comparing the effect of pharmacist-delivered medication reviews, motivational interviews, and postdischarge follow-up with nursing homes, primary care providers, and pharmacies (extended intervention); simple inpatient medication reconciliation (basic intervention); and usual care (no intervention) on outcomes for medically complex patients. The extended intervention reduced hospital readmissions and emergency department visits within 180 days of discharge while the basic intervention did not. This trial was large, robustly conducted, and demonstrated a durable improvement in safety for patients at increased readmission risk. A previous Annual Perspective explored tools for safer transitions of care.
Liberati EG, Peerally MF, Dixon-Woods M. Int J Qual Health Care. 2018;30:39-43.
The field of patient safety has long looked to high reliability organizations like aviation or nuclear power for solutions, but it is unclear how well such approaches translate to health care settings. In this study, researchers asked clinicians to identify safety hazards from their own work and then propose solutions. After applying a systems thinking framework to clinicians' solution ideas, they found that most of the clinician-generated safety approaches would be considered ineffective by high reliability standards. The authors suggest that industrial frameworks are an imperfect match for health care settings and should be used with caution. A recent PSNet interview with the study's senior author, Mary Dixon-Woods, discusses the sociology of health care versus other industries.
Bejnordi BE, Veta M, van Diest PJ, et al. JAMA. 2017;318:2199-2210.
Diagnostic error is a growing area of focus within patient safety. Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve the diagnostic process, both in terms of accuracy and efficiency. In this study, investigators compared the use of automated deep learning algorithms for detecting metastatic disease in stained tissue sections of lymph nodes of women with breast cancer to pathologists' diagnoses. The algorithms were developed by researchers as part of a competition and their performance was assessed on a test set of 129 slides, 49 with metastatic disease and 80 without. A panel of 11 pathologists evaluated the same slides with a 2-hour time limit and one pathologist evaluated the slides without any time constraints. The authors conclude that some of the algorithms demonstrated better diagnostic performance than the pathologists did, but they suggest that further testing in a clinical setting is warranted. An accompanying editorial discusses the potential of artificial intelligence in health care.
Aldridge C, Bion J, Boyal A, et al. Lancet. 2016;388:178-86.
In-hospital mortality for many conditions is higher on the weekends than on weekdays—a phenomenon known as the weekend effect. Some hypothesize lower specialty physician staffing levels on weekends explains the mortality difference. This cross-sectional study compared specialist staffing levels and mortality rates at 115 hospitals in the English National Health Service on Sundays compared to Wednesdays. Researchers found a higher mortality rate and lower intensity of specialty services on weekends, but there was no correlation between the two ratios. Although this study is not definitive, it does imply that alternate mechanisms may explain the weekend effect, such as case mix differences, variation in nonphysician staffing, or lower availability of diagnostic services. A previous PSNet interview discussed the weekend effect in health care.
Ball JE, Bruyneel L, Aiken LH, et al. Int J Nurs Stud. 2018;78:10-15.
Missed nursing care may result from inadequate nurse staffing and explain the relationship between nurse-to-patient ratios and patient outcomes. Research has shown that higher nurse staffing levels are associated with lower inpatient mortality and that reduced staffing increases the risk for postoperative complications. In this study, investigators examined data from more than 400,000 surgical patients from 300 hospitals in 9 countries as well as survey responses from 26,516 nurses. They found a significant association between nurse staffing and missed nursing care with 30-day risk-adjusted postoperative mortality. The authors conclude that measuring missed nursing care may help identify patients at greater risk for adverse outcomes earlier in their course. A past WebM&M commentary highlighted important issues associated with nurse staffing ratios.
Dekker S. Boca Baton, FL: CRC Press; 2017.
This revised and reorganized book provides a primer on how human error causes mishaps and often illustrates deeper troubles within a system. Both the old view of human error that places blame on the individual and the new view that identifies most human failures as merely a symptom of systems-level problems are presented. This view of human error has led to the application of root cause analyses and human factors engineering in health care. New chapters discuss the importance of safety culture and provide recommendations on improving the failure investigation process.
Aiken LH, Sloane D, Griffiths P, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26:559-568.
Researchers analyzed patient discharge data and hospital characteristics, as well as patient and nurse survey data, across adult acute care hospitals in six European countries. After adjusting for hospital and patient variables, they found that hospitals in which nursing care was provided to a greater degree by skilled nurses had lower odds of mortality. The authors argue against replacing professional nurses with nursing assistants and suggest that doing so may compromise patient safety by increasing preventable deaths.
Walker S, Mason A, Quan P, et al. Lancet. 2017;390:62-72.
The weekend effect (higher mortality for patients in acute care settings on weekends compared to weekdays) has led to widespread concerns about hospital staffing. This retrospective study examined whether mortality for emergency admissions at four hospitals in the United Kingdom differed on weekends compared to weekdays. Unlike prior studies of the weekend effect, this study included multiple specific markers of patients' illness severity as well as hospital workload. Investigators found higher mortality associated with being admitted to the hospital during weekends compared to weekdays, but a significant proportion of the observed weekend effect was explained by severity of patient illness. They used three measures to approximate hospital workload: total number of admissions, net admissions (subtracting discharges from admissions), and percentage of beds occupied. None of these workload measures was associated with mortality. The authors conclude that differences in illness severity rather than health care team staffing explain the weekend effect. A recent PSNet interview discussed the weekend effect in health care.
Dekker S. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2017. ISBN: 9781472475756.
Although early efforts in the patient safety movement focused on shifting the blame for errors from individuals to system-failures, more recently the pendulum has swung slightly back to try and balance a "no blame" culture with appropriate personal accountability. This tension was notably described early on in the context of resident training programs. Dr. Dekker's book addresses the traditional criminalization of mistakes and draws from several high-risk industries to illustrate how a just culture is a more effective strategy to learn from and prevent error. He argues that a just culture in health care is critical to creating a safety culture. The third edition offers new content related to restorative justice and explores the reasons why individuals break rules.
Lawton R, O'Hara JK, Sheard L, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26:622-631.
Although patient engagement is widely recommended as a patient safety strategy, its impact on patient outcomes is unclear. In this cluster randomized trial, hospital wards were designated either to receive usual hospital care or to engage patients in safety by providing a questionnaire and an opportunity to report their positive and negative safety experiences. Investigators compared a global measure of safety, which included pressure ulcers, venous thromboembolism, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and falls, between wards that engaged patients through this intervention with those that did not. While the participating hospital wards were able to collect safety feedback from patients in a feasible and acceptable manner, researchers found no statistically significant differences in safety outcomes in the patient engagement wards and the usual care wards. The authors conclude that evidence is insufficient to recommend this questionnaire-based patient engagement strategy as a way to enhance safety.
Jørgensen KJ, Gøtzsche PC, Kalager M, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166:313-323.
The overuse of medical care is increasingly recognized as a patient safety issue. Overdiagnosis can result in unnecessary use of medical care, subjecting patients to greater risk of harm. For example, in the case of breast cancer, screening may detect lesions that are not clinically significant, leading to further testing and unnecessary procedures. This study examined the impact of mammography screening on a cohort of women in Denmark. Researchers found that screening was not associated with decreased incidence of advanced cancer but increased incidence of nonadvanced tumors and ductal carcinoma in situ; the rate of overdiagnosis was significant. An accompanying editorial discusses overdiagnosis in breast cancer.
Anselmi L, Meacock R, Kristensen SR, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26:613-621.
Previous research has shown that patients admitted to the hospital on the weekend are at increased risk for worse outcomes, including mortality. This retrospective study examined more than 3 million emergency admissions to 140 hospital trusts in England between April 2013 and February 2014. Patient arrival times were recorded by day of the week and nighttime versus daytime. Using administrative data and standard risk adjustment, mortality rates were higher for patients arriving during the week on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Risk-adjusted mortality rates were also found to increase for patients arriving over the weekend from daytime on Saturday through nighttime on Sunday. However, when researchers adjusted for arrival by ambulance, higher mortality was statistically significant only for those patients arriving at the hospital during the day on Sunday. Investigators suggest that prior research supporting the weekend effect is overly reliant on administrative data, which may not accurately characterize illness severity. It is often debated whether the weekend effect could be due to factors related to the system of care (i.e., reduced staffing on weekends) or patient factors (i.e., increased severity of illness of patients admitted on the weekend). An Australian study sought to answer this question and found that certain diagnoses appeared to be associated with higher mortality for weekend admissions, largely due to health system factors.
Li L, Rothwell PM, Study OV. BMJ. 2016;353:i2648.
The weekend effect refers to the fact that mortality for several common conditions is higher in patients admitted on weekends compared to weekdays. While the mechanism for this effect is unclear, it likely varies for different disease processes. For example, prior studies have postulated that a weekend effect exists for patients with acute stroke. However, this study analyzed a large British database and found that many patients with a history of stroke who were later hospitalized for other reasons had their admission diagnosis inaccurately documented as acute stroke. This inaccuracy occurred more frequently in patients admitted on weekdays. Because the weekday admissions included many patients who were hospitalized for less morbid conditions, mortality appeared lower for patients admitted on weekdays than on weekends. When data was reanalyzed to include only those patients with a true acute stroke, no weekend effect was found. This study demonstrates the limitations of administrative data in analyzing patient safety issues.