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Journal Article > Study
Neily J, Mills PD, Eldridge N, et al. Arch Surg. 2009;144:1028-1034.
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.
Journal Article > Commentary
Smetzer J, Baker C, Byrne FD, Cohen MR. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2010;36:152-163, 1AP-2AP.
This article discusses how a hospital responded to a fatal medication error that occurred when a nurse mistakenly administered epidural pain medication intravenously to a pregnant teenager. Findings from the root cause analysis of the error revealed underlying factors including fatigue (the nurse had worked a double shift the day before), failed safety systems (the hospital had recently implemented a bar coding system, but not all nurses were trained and workarounds were routine), and human factors engineering (bags containing antibiotics and pain medications were similar in appearance and could be accessed with the same type of catheter). A range of safety interventions were implemented as a result. However, the related editorials by leaders in the safety field (Drs. Sidney Dekker, Charles Denham, and Lucian Leape) take the hospital to task for focusing on narrow improvements rather than using complexity theory to solve underlying problems, and for creating a "second victim" by disciplining the nurse (who was fired and ultimately criminally prosecuted) rather than acknowledging the institution's responsibility and the caregiver's emotional distress. The article and commentaries provide a fascinating, in-depth look at the true impact of a never event.
Journal Article > Study
Metzger J, Welebob E, Bates DW, Lipsitz S, Classen DC. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010;29:655-663.
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) has provided significant safety benefits in research studies, especially when combined with clinical decision support to prevent common prescribing errors. However, CPOE's "real-world" performance has been mixed, with high-profile studies documenting a variety of unintended consequences. This AHRQ-funded study used simulated patient records to evaluate the ability of eight commercial CPOE modules to prevent medication errors. The overall results were disappointing, as CPOE failed to prevent many medication errors—including fully half of potentially fatal errors, which are considered never events. The individual CPOE products varied significantly in their ability to detect potential errors. Some hospitals did achieve superior performance, which the authors ascribe to greater experience with CPOE and implementation of more advanced decision support tools. Another recent article found that reminders within CPOE systems resulted in only small improvements in adherence to recommended care processes. Taken together, these studies imply that CPOE implementation may not result in large immediate effects on safety and quality in typical practice settings.
Journal Article > Commentary
Ring DC, Herndon JH, Meyer GS. N Engl J Med. 2010;363:1950-1957.
The Case Records of the Massachusetts General Hospital are one of the most hallowed traditions in the medical literature, having been published weekly in the New England Journal of Medicine for more than a century. In contrast to the usual clinical focus, this article discusses a never event—a case of a patient who underwent the wrong surgical procedure. Presented by the surgeon himself, the article details the factors that led to the error, including production pressures, language barriers, and failure to perform a time out, and explores the ramifications of the error for the surgeon, the patient, and the institution.
Levinson DR. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General; January 2012. Report No. OEI-06-09-00091.
Incident reporting systems are ubiquitous, but their effectiveness as a means of monitoring for patient safety problems is unclear. In a prior report, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that 13.5% of Medicare beneficiaries suffered an adverse event while hospitalized. This follow-up analysis found that incident reports were not filed for the vast majority of these adverse events. Moreover, hospital personnel did not voluntarily report any of the never events identified in the earlier study. The reasons for this lack of reporting likely include confusion about which types of errors needed to be reported, as well as other issues documented in prior studies such as lack of reporting by physicians. Based on these findings, the OIG recommends that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) create a uniform list of potentially reportable events for dissemination to hospitals, and that CMS should assist accrediting agencies in assessing the adequacy of hospitals' error reporting systems.