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Farnborough, UK: Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; June 3, 2021.

Wrong site/wrong patent surgery is a persistent healthcare never event. This report examines National Health Service (NHS) reporting data to identify how ambulatory patient identification errors contribute to wrong patient care. The authors recommend that the NHS use human factors methods to design control processes to target and manage the risks in the outpatient environment such as lack of technology integration, shared waiting area space, and reliance on verbal communication at clinic.
Neily J, Soncrant C, Mills PD, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1:e185147.
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.
McKinley J, Dempster M, Gormley GJ. Med Educ. 2015;49:427-35.
Wrong-side procedures still occur at alarming rates, particularly outside of the operating room. This study exposed medical students to various types of distractions and measured their ability to distinguish a person's left from right side from different perspectives. Cognitive distractions had a bigger negative impact than ambient ward noise on the students' performance.
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.
Duthie EA. J Patient Saf. 2010;6:108-114.
This study examines five wrong-procedure cases by applying James Reason’s human error theory, and describes the role of human behavior and cognitive processes in the events. The authors conclude that a systems approach is a more effective prevention strategy than relying on education, counseling, and disciplinary action.
Neily J, Mills PD, Eldridge N, et al. Arch Surg. 2009;144:1028-34.
Wrong-patient and wrong-site surgeries are considered never events, as they are devastating errors that arise from serious underlying safety problems. This study used Veterans Administration data to analyze the broader concept of "incorrect" surgical procedures, including near misses and errors in procedures performed outside the operating room (for example, in interventional radiology). Root cause analysis was used to identify underlying safety problems. Errors occurred in virtually all specialties that perform procedures. The authors found that many cases could be attributed in part to poor communication that may not have been addressed by preoperative time-outs; for example, several cases in which surgical implants were unavailable would have required communication well before the day of surgery. The authors argue for teamwork training based on crew resource management principles to address these serious errors.
Dillon KA. AORN J. 2008;88:437-442.
This article discusses the reasons for utilizing the Joint Commission Universal Protocol for time outs and describes a process for implementing its use.
A woman with a fractured right foot receives spinal anesthesia and nearly has surgery for trimalleolar fracture and dislocation of the left ankle. Only immediately prior to surgery did the team realize that the x-ray was not hers.
Despite a "time out" and having his leg marked by the surgeon, a patient comes perilously close to having surgery on the wrong leg.