The AHRQ PSNet Collection comprises an extensive selection of resources relevant to the patient safety community. These resources come in a variety of formats, including literature, research, tools, and Web sites. Resources are identified using the National Library of Medicine’s Medline database, various news and content aggregators, and the expertise of the AHRQ PSNet editorial and technical teams.
The National Quality Forum has defined 29 never events—patient safety problems that should never occur, such as wrong-site surgery and patient falls. Since 2003, Minnesota hospitals have been required to report such incidents. The 2021 report summarizes information about 508 adverse events that were reported, representing a significant increase in the year covered. Earlier reports document a fairly consistent count of adverse events. The rise reflected here is likely due to demands on staffing and care processes associated with COVID-19. Pressure ulcers and fall-related injuries were the most common incidents documented. Reports from previous years are available.
This retrospective study of dental patient safety reports in the military health system demonstrated an increase in reported events, which may reflect improvements in safety culture. Wrong-site surgery was the most common adverse event, suggesting the need to enhance safety practices in dentistry.
The Joint Commission and National Quality Forum both consider wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient surgeries to be never events. Despite improvement approaches ranging from the Universal Protocol to nonpayment for the procedures themselves and any consequent care, these serious surgical errors continue to occur. This study measured the incidence of incorrect surgeries in Veterans Health Administration medical centers from 2010 to 2017. Surgical patient safety events resulting in harm were rare and declined by more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2017. Dentistry, ophthalmology, and neurosurgery had the highest incidence of in–operating room adverse events. Root cause analysis revealed that 29% of events could have been prevented with a correctly performed time-out. A WebM&M commentary examined an incident involving a wrong-side surgery.
Deutsch ES, Yonash RA, Martin DE, et al. J Clin Anesth. 2018;46:101-111.
Wrong-site procedures are considered never events, yet they continue to occur. This review describes the incidence, impacts, and contributing factors of wrong-site nerve blocks. The authors recommend verifying the procedure and patient with multiple sources of information, using visible site markings, and employing time outs immediately prior to anesthetic use. A WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving a wrong-site nerve block.
Bathla S, Chadwick M, Nevins EJ, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e503-e508.
Wrong-site surgery represents a never event. In the United States, The Joint Commission requires marking of the surgical site prior to surgery as part of the Universal Protocol. Researchers conducted a survey study of 120 surgeons in the United Kingdom and found significant variation in adherence to the national mandate for preoperative surgical site-marking.
Boston, MA: Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction; 2016.
Cataract surgery, one of the most common procedures in the United States, is vulnerable to wrong-site errors. This consensus report reviews the types of errors associated with cataract surgery and discusses evidence-based practices to reduce risks.
Despite efforts to prevent wrong-site surgeries, they continue to occur. This commentary discusses a near miss resulting from human factors and inadequate team communication to underscore the importance of reporting and analyzing incidents to enhance individual practice and teamwork.
This systematic review investigated root causes of wrong-site surgery and identified three vulnerabilities: transcription errors prior to surgery, intraoperative verification failures, and omitting steps in the verification process. The Universal Protocol does not mitigate these vulnerabilities, suggesting that further interventions are required to prevent wrong-site surgeries. A recent AHRQ WebM&M commentary provides an overview of wrong-site surgery and best practices to prevent it.
Shah RK, Boss EF, Brereton J, et al. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;150:779-784.
This survey of otolaryngologists found very little overall progress in self-reported patient safety errors compared with a similar survey in 2004. For instance, wrong-site surgeries continue to occur despite garnering major attention over the past decade and being classified as a never event.
Alam M, Lee A, Ibrahimi OA, et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150:550-8.
Excisional skin cancer surgery is a common procedure often performed many days after an initial biopsy by a different physician, making it particularly vulnerable to wrong-site surgery. This study provides a range of consensus recommendations for medical professionals and patients to reduce such risks.
Mehtsun WT, Ibrahim AM, Diener-West M, et al. Surgery. 2013;153:465-472.
More than a decade ago, stories of wrong site surgeries and retained surgical objects galvanized the patient safety movement. Despite public uproar and attention focused on these never events, such incidents continue to occur at alarming rates. This study found that surgeons make these mistakes more than 4000 times per year in the United States. Related malpractice payments have amounted to more than $1.3 billion over the last 20 years. Although this financial burden is substantial, it may pale in comparison to the degree of patient harm resulting from these preventable errors. An incident of wrong-site surgery is discussed in an AHRQ WebM&M commentary.
James MA, Seiler JG, Harrast JJ, et al. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012;94:e2(1-12).
This study found that wrong-site surgeries continued to occur despite adoption of "Sign Your Site" initiatives and implementation of a Universal Protocol. The most common errors reported were related to wrong-level spine surgery.
Department of Health of Western Australia, Patient Safety Directorate. Perth: Department of Health WA; 2011.
This report shares the 2010-2011 results of Western Australia's sentinel event reporting program. Patient suicide is the highest recorded sentinel event. The data is placed in the context of the overall data collected since the program's launch in 2003.
Mallett R, Conroy M, Saslaw LZ, et al. Am J Med Qual. 2012;27:21-9.
After several episodes of incorrect surgical procedures, a medical center conducted individual root cause analyses and summarized the findings to identify common causes of each individual error. These findings were used to implement systematic prevention measures.
Neily J, Mills PD, Eldridge N, et al. Arch Surg. 2011;146:1235-9.
This analysis of incorrect surgical procedures in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system found an overall decline in the number of reported wrong-site, wrong-patient, and wrong-procedure errors compared with the authors' prior study. As in the earlier report, half of the incorrect procedures occurred outside of the operating room. Root cause analyses of errors revealed that lack of standardization and human factors issues were major contributing factors. During the time period of this study, the VA implemented a teamwork training program that has been associated with a significant decline in surgical mortality. The authors propose that additional, focused team training may be one solution to this persistent problem.
Efforts to prevent wrong-site and wrong-patient surgical errors (WSPEs) initially focused on procedural disciplines and operating room procedures. However, this analysis of WSPEs that were voluntarily reported to a Colorado malpractice insurance company database found that a significant proportion of WSPEs were committed by physicians in non-surgical fields (such as internal medicine). Root cause analysis revealed a number of contributing causes, with diagnostic errors and communication errors the primary culprits. Interestingly, the injured patients did not file a malpractice lawsuit in the vast majority of cases. This study confirms and extends prior research showing that many WSPEs actually occur outside the operating room. The authors call for strict adherence to the Joint Commission Universal Protocol in order to prevent these never events.
Cohen FL, Mendelsohn D, Bernstein M. J Neurosurg. 2010;113:461-73.
This study found that communication breakdowns, inadequate preoperative checks, technical factors, and human error were the primary categories identified in assessing the root causes of wrong-site craniotomy. The authors suggest that the events were preventable had proper compliance with protocols taken place.
Shah RK, Nussenbaum B, Kienstra M, et al. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;143:37-41.
This survey of otolaryngologists found that many respondents had personal experience with wrong-site surgery. Incorrectly labeled or inverted radiographic images were frequently implicated as a contributing cause.
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