Digitalization: ‘The encoding of analogue information into a digital format and the possible subsequent reconfigurations of the socio-technical context of production and consumption of the associated products and services’.1
This edition includes two papers reporting research from a 5-year study of electronic prescribing in English hospitals.2 3 The papers each address a significant safety and quality issue drawing data from the wider study. These issues are the level of coordination and integration that electronic prescribing systems achieve,3 and the emergence of ‘workarounds’ as managers and clinical users adapt electronic prescribing systems’ capabilities to their needs and working environment.2 The risks to patient safety posed by these systems, their implementation and use are further explored in a third associated paper published elsewhere.4
Workarounds were found to be either ‘informal’ or ‘formalised’ practices, the former derived from user...
High quality care is patient-centred.1 Efforts to promote patient-centred care in clinical practice should improve quality. Both shared decision-making (SDM) and the process of obtaining informed consent could be expressions of patient-centred care—to the extent that they respond to the advocates' call for ‘nothing about me without me’. In this issue of BMJ Quality and Safety, Shahu et al2 discuss variations in the quality of informed consent procedures, which could, in their view, fail to support patient-centred care in general, and SDM specifically.
Readers interested in advancing this domain of quality may, therefore, be interested in improving the quality of informed consent procedures and promoting the implementation and routine use of SDM. But are these similar practices? Is informed consent a lesser version of SDM, with SDM the ideal expression of patient autonomy and involvement? Or are these different in purpose, process and outcomes?
In hospitals, the nursing staff typically represent the largest single element of cost, and nursing is frequently treated as a cost centre rather than a core service line. Efforts to contain hospital costs often involve cutting nursing care, reducing the number of nurses or replacing some professional nursing staff with staff such as licensed practical nurses, nurses' aides and other assistive personnel.
Substantial evidence from studies in the USA, Europe and other countries relates lower nurse staffing and higher nurse workloads to adverse patient outcomes such as mortality, infections, falls and longer lengths of stay. Longer stays, which increase hospital costs, may result from increased adverse events lengthening admissions or delays in care due to nurses being unable to complete their work or prepare patients for discharge.1–13
Substantial sums of money are being invested worldwide in health information technology. Realising benefits and mitigating safety risks is however highly dependent on effective integration of information within systems and/or interfacing to allow information exchange across systems. As part of an English programme of research, we explored the social and technical challenges relating to integration and interfacing experienced by early adopter hospitals of standalone and hospital-wide multimodular integrated electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) systems.Methods
We collected longitudinal qualitative data from six hospitals, which we conceptualised as case studies. We conducted 173 interviews with users, implementers and software suppliers (at up to three different times), 24 observations of system use and strategic meetings, 17 documents relating to implementation plans, and 2 whole-day expert round-table discussions. Data were thematically analysed initially within and then across cases, drawing on perspectives surrounding information infrastructures.Results
We observed that integration and interfacing problems obstructed effective information transfer in both standalone and multimodular systems, resulting in threats to patient safety emerging from the lack of availability of timely information and duplicate data entry. Interfacing problems were immediately evident in some standalone systems where users had to cope with multiple log-ins, and this did not attenuate over time. Multimodular systems appeared at first sight to obviate such problems. However, with these systems, there was a perceived lack of data coherence across modules resulting in challenges in presenting a comprehensive overview of the patient record, this possibly resulting from the piecemeal implementation of modules with different functionalities. Although it was possible to access data from some primary care systems, we found poor two-way transfer of data between hospitals and primary care necessitating workarounds, which in turn led to the opportunity for new errors associated with duplicate and manual information transfer. Extending ePrescribing to include modules with other clinically important information needed to support care was still an aspiration in most sites, although some advanced multimodular systems had begun implementing this functionality. Multimodular systems were, however, seen as being difficult to interface with external systems.Conclusions
The decision to pursue a strategy of purchasing standalone systems and then interfacing these, or one of buying hospital-wide multimodular systems, is a pivotal one for hospitals in realising the vision of achieving a fully integrated digital record, and this should be predicated on a clear appreciation of the relative trade-offs between these choices. While multimodular systems offered somewhat better usability, standalone systems provided greater flexibility and opportunity for innovation, particularly in relation to interoperability with external systems and in relation to customisability to the needs of different user groups.
Concerns with the usability of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) systems can lead to the development of workarounds by users.Objectives
To investigate the types of workarounds users employed, the underlying reasons offered and implications for care provision and patient safety.Methods
We collected a large qualitative data set, comprising interviews, observations and project documents, as part of an evaluation of ePrescribing systems in five English hospitals, which we conceptualised as case studies. Data were collected at up to three different time points throughout implementation and adoption. Thematic analysis involving deductive and inductive approaches was facilitated by NVivo 10.Results
Our data set consisted of 173 interviews, 24 rounds of observation and 17 documents. Participating hospitals were at various stages of implementing a range of systems with differing functionalities. We identified two types of workarounds: informal and formal. The former were informal practices employed by users not approved by management, which were introduced because of perceived changes to professional roles, issues with system usability and performance and challenges relating to the inaccessibility of hardware. The latter were formalised practices that were promoted by management and occurred when systems posed threats to patient safety and organisational functioning. Both types of workarounds involved using paper and other software systems as intermediaries, which often created new risks relating to a lack of efficient transfer of real-time information between different users.Conclusions
Assessing formal and informal workarounds employed by users should be part of routine organisational implementation strategies of major health information technology initiatives. Workarounds can create new risks and present new opportunities for improvement in system design and integration.
Hospital-acquired infections are the most common adverse event for inpatients worldwide. Efforts to prevent microbial cross-contamination currently focus on hand hygiene and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), with variable success. Better understanding is needed of infection prevention and control (IPC) in routine clinical practice.Methods
We report on an interventionist video-reflexive ethnography study that explored how healthcare workers performed IPC in three wards in two hospitals in New South Wales, Australia: an intensive care unit and two general surgical wards. We conducted 46 semistructured interviews, 24 weeks of fieldwork (observation and videoing) and 22 reflexive sessions with a total of 177 participants (medical, nursing, allied health, clerical and cleaning staff, and medical and nursing students). We performed a postintervention analysis, using a modified grounded theory approach, to account for the range of IPC practices identified by participants.Results
We found that healthcare workers' routine IPC work goes beyond hand hygiene and PPE. It also involves, for instance, the distribution of team members during rounds, the choreography of performing aseptic procedures and moving ‘from clean to dirty’ when examining patients. We account for these practices as the logistical work of moving bodies and objects across boundaries, especially from contaminated to clean/vulnerable spaces, while restricting the movement of micro-organisms through cleaning, applying barriers and buffers, and trajectory planning.Conclusions
Attention to the logistics of moving people and objects around healthcare spaces, especially into vulnerable areas, allows for a more comprehensive approach to IPC through better contextualisation of hand hygiene and PPE protocols, better identification of transmission risks, and the design and promotion of a wider range of preventive strategies and solutions.
To determine the association of hospital nursing skill mix with patient mortality, patient ratings of their care and indicators of quality of care.Design
Cross-sectional patient discharge data, hospital characteristics and nurse and patient survey data were merged and analysed using generalised estimating equations (GEE) and logistic regression models.Setting
Adult acute care hospitals in Belgium, England, Finland, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland.Participants
Survey data were collected from 13 077 nurses in 243 hospitals, and 18 828 patients in 182 of the same hospitals in the six countries. Discharge data were obtained for 275 519 surgical patients in 188 of these hospitals.Main outcome measures
Patient mortality, patient ratings of care, care quality, patient safety, adverse events and nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction.Results
Richer nurse skill mix (eg, every 10-point increase in the percentage of professional nurses among all nursing personnel) was associated with lower odds of mortality (OR=0.89), lower odds of low hospital ratings from patients (OR=0.90) and lower odds of reports of poor quality (OR=0.89), poor safety grades (OR=0.85) and other poor outcomes (0.80<OR<0.93), after adjusting for patient and hospital factors. Each 10 percentage point reduction in the proportion of professional nurses is associated with an 11% increase in the odds of death. In our hospital sample, there were an average of six caregivers for every 25 patients, four of whom were professional nurses. Substituting one nurse assistant for a professional nurse for every 25 patients is associated with a 21% increase in the odds of dying.Conclusions
A bedside care workforce with a greater proportion of professional nurses is associated with better outcomes for patients and nurses. Reducing nursing skill mix by adding nursing associates and other categories of assistive nursing personnel without professional nurse qualifications may contribute to preventable deaths, erode quality and safety of hospital care and contribute to hospital nurse shortages.
Informed consent provides a powerful opportunity to build trust between the patient and clinician while supporting patient autonomy, transparency and shared decision-making.1 2 However, it is often relegated to a perfunctory task, performed as an ethical-legal formality minutes prior to a procedure.3–5 As such, basic elements necessary for achieving the espoused goals of informed consent may be missing or suboptimally implemented, undermining patient-centred, high-quality decision-making. The types and extent of gaps in quality have not been systematically studied, limiting efforts to improve implementation. Our aim was to assess variation in quality of informed consent documents associated with three commonly performed cardiovascular procedures: left heart catheterisation, transesophageal echocardiography and implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator. We focused on basic elements of consent documents with the goal of illuminating opportunities to establish minimum standards for informed consent.Methods...
Plan-do–study–act (PDSA) cycles are the building blocks of iterative healthcare improvement.1 Although frequently regarded as separate from research,2 this quality improvement method remains rooted in the scientific method. The P in PDSA usually stands for ‘plan’ but could just as easily refer to ‘predict’. Each cycle combines prediction with a test of change (in effect, hypothesis testing), analysis and a conclusion regarding the best step forward—usually a prediction of what to do for the next PDSA cycle.3
Too often, however, improvement teams go through the motions of PDSA cycles without really embracing its spirit or applying its scientific method. For example, an improvement team might talk about having used PDSA when in reality the original change idea remained roughly unchanged throughout the project, with no refinements to the intervention or the plan to implement it. Quality improvement rarely works out so...
It is temptingly easy to treat improvement interventions as if they are drugs—technical, stable and uninfluenced by the environment in which they work. Doing so makes life so much easier for everyone. It allows improvement practitioners to plan their work with a high degree of certainty, funders to be confident that they know what they are buying and evaluators to focus on what really matters—whether or not ‘it’ works.
But of course most people know that life is not as simple as that. Experienced improvers have long recognised that interventions—the specific tools and activities introduced into a healthcare system with the aim of changing its performance for the better1—flex and morph. Clever improvers watch and describe how this happens. Even more clever improvers plan and actively manage the process in a way that optimises the impact of...
Video recording technologies offer a powerful way to document what happens in clinical areas.1 Cameras, and to a lesser extent, microphones, can be found in a growing number of modern operating rooms in the USA, UK and other parts of the world. While they could be used to create a detailed record of what happens in and around the operating table, this is still rarely being done; the vast majority of operations are still only documented in written operation notes. When operations are being recorded, it is primarily for educational purposes: for instance, to broadcast a live feed of a surgical demonstration to a remote audience; to provide an ‘adjunct’ to live observation;2 to collect authentic footage for edited, instructional videos on a surgical technique or procedure; to facilitate video enhanced debriefing and coaching; or to formally assess...