Empirical evidence from many published studies indicates that better hospital professional registered nurse (RN) staffing is associated with better patient outcomes, including lower mortality and failure to rescue, shorter lengths of stay, fewer readmissions, fewer complications, higher patient satisfaction and more favourable reports from patients and nurses alike related to quality of care and patient safety.1–10 There are nonetheless lingering questions and concerns about these studies and the evidence they provide. In this issue of BMJ Quality & Safety, Needleman et al11 allude to some potentially important ones in their introduction to their paper, including making causal inferences from cross-sectional studies, the absence of evidence on whether there is an optimal level of staffing or some level of minimally acceptable staffing below which nurses are unable to...
In this issue, Amalberti and Vincent1 ask ‘what strategies we might adopt to protect patients when healthcare systems and organizations are under stress and simply cannot provide the standard of care they aspire to’. This is clearly a critical and much overdue question, as many healthcare organisations are in an almost constant state of stress from high workload, personnel shortages, high-complexity patients, new technologies, fragmented and conflicting payment systems, over-regulation, and many other issues. These stressors put mid-level managers and front-line staff in situations where they may compromise their standards and be unable to provide the highest quality care. Such circumstances can contribute to low morale and burn-out.
The authors provide guidance for addressing this tension of providing safe care during times of organisational stress, including principles for managing risk in difficult conditions, examples for managing this tension in other high-risk industries, and a research and development...
There is now widespread awareness of the very considerable burden of harm and associated costs resulting from medication errors, which, in turn, has stimulated national and international drives to reduce medication-associated harm. In parallel, there is a growing appreciation that health information technology (HIT) has the potential to reduce the risk of medication errors. There is, however, a wide gulf between HIT as a structural intervention and its translation into improvements in care processes, and a wider gulf still between the process of care and improvements in health outcomes.1 What matters to patients, and their loved ones, is of course avoidance of actual harm and it is for this reason that the WHO, in launching its Third Global Safety Challenge, called it ‘Medication Without Harm’.2
Governments across the world are investing substantial sums of money in moving care from paper-based records to electronic health record...
The association of nursing staffing with patient outcomes has primarily been studied by comparing high to low staffed hospitals, raising concern other factors may account for observed differences. We examine the association of inpatient mortality with patients’ cumulative exposure to shifts with low registered nurse (RN) staffing, low nursing support staffing and high patient turnover.Methods
Cumulative counts of exposure to shifts with low staffing and high patient turnover were used as time-varying covariates in survival analysis of data from a three-campus US academic medical centre for 2007–2012. Staffing below 75% of annual median unit staffing for each staff category and shift type was characterised as low. High patient turnover per day was defined as admissions, discharges and transfers 1 SD above unit annual daily averages.Results
Models included cumulative counts of patient exposure to shifts with low RN staffing, low nursing support staffing, both concurrently and high patient turnover. The HR for exposure to shifts with low RN staffing only was 1.027 (95% CI 1.002 to 1.053, p<0.001), low nursing support only, 1.030 (95% CI 1.017 to 1.042, p<0.001) and shifts with both low, 1.025 (95% CI 1.008 to 1.043, p=0.035). For a model examining cumulative exposure over the second to fifth days of an admission, the HR for exposure to shifts with low RN staffing only was 1.048 (95% CI 0.998 to 1.100, p=0.061), low nursing support only, 1.032 (95% CI 1.008 to 1.057, p<0.01) and for shifts with both low,1.136 (95% CI 1.089 to 1.185, p<0.001). No relationship was observed for high patient turnover and mortality.Conclusion
Low RN and nursing support staffing were associated with increased mortality. The results should encourage hospital leadership to assure both adequate RN and nursing support staffing.
Improved hospital care is needed to reduce newborn mortality in low/middle-income countries (LMIC). Nurses are essential to the delivery of safe and effective care, but nurse shortages and high patient workloads may result in missed care. We aimed to examine nursing care delivered to sick newborns and identify missed care using direct observational methods.Methods
A cross-sectional study using direct-observational methods for 216 newborns admitted in six health facilities in Nairobi, Kenya, was used to determine which tasks were completed. We report the frequency of tasks done and develop a nursing care index (NCI), an unweighted summary score of nursing tasks done for each baby, to explore how task completion is related to organisational and newborn characteristics.Results
Nursing tasks most commonly completed were handing over between shifts (97%), checking and where necessary changing diapers (96%). Tasks with lowest completion rates included nursing review of newborns (38%) and assessment of babies on phototherapy (15%). Overall the mean NCI was 60% (95% CI 58% to 62%), at least 80% of tasks were completed for only 14% of babies. Private sector facilities had a median ratio of babies to nurses of 3, with a maximum of 7 babies per nurse. In the public sector, the median ratio was 19 babies and a maximum exceeding 25 babies per nurse. In exploratory multivariable analyses, ratios of ≥12 babies per nurse were associated with a 24-point reduction in the mean NCI compared with ratios of ≤3 babies per nurse.Conclusion
A significant proportion of nursing care is missed with potentially serious effects on patient safety and outcomes in this LMIC setting. Given that nurses caring for fewer babies on average performed more of the expected tasks, addressing nursing is key to ensuring delivery of essential aspects of care as part of improving quality and safety.
The ‘Productive Ward: Releasing Time to Care’ programme is a quality improvement (QI) intervention introduced in English acute hospitals a decade ago to: (1) Increase time nurses spend in direct patient care. (2) Improve safety and reliability of care. (3) Improve experience for staff and patients. (4) Make changes to physical environments to improve efficiency.Objective
To explore how timing of adoption, local implementation strategies and processes of assimilation into day-to-day practice relate to one another and shape any sustained impact and wider legacies of a large-scale QI intervention.Design
Multiple methods within six hospitals including 88 interviews (with Productive Ward leads, ward staff, Patient and Public Involvement representatives and senior managers), 10 ward manager questionnaires and structured observations on 12 randomly selected wards.Results
Resource constraints and a managerial desire for standardisation meant that, over time, there was a shift away from the original vision of empowering ward staff to take ownership of Productive Ward towards a range of implementation ‘short cuts’. Nonetheless, material legacies (eg, displaying metrics data; storage systems) have remained in place for up to a decade after initial implementation as have some specific practices (eg, protected mealtimes). Variations in timing of adoption, local implementation strategies and contextual changes influenced assimilation into routine practice and subsequent legacies. Productive Ward has informed wider organisational QI strategies that remain in place today and developed lasting QI capabilities among those meaningfully involved in its implementation.Conclusions
As an ongoing QI approach Productive Ward has not been sustained but has informed contemporary organisational QI practices and strategies. Judgements about the long-term sustainability of QI interventions should consider the evolutionary and adaptive nature of change processes.
In-hospital medication review has been linked to improved outcomes after discharge, yet there is little evidence to support the use of community pharmacy-based interventions as part of transitional care.Objective
To determine whether receipt of a postdischarge community pharmacy-based medication reconciliation and adherence review is associated with a reduced risk of death or re-admission.Design
Propensity score-matched cohort study.Setting
Patients over age 66 years discharged home from an acute care hospital from 1 April 2007 to 16 September 2016.Exposure
MedsCheck, a publicly funded medication reconciliation and adherence review provided by community pharmacists.Main outcome
The primary outcome was time to death or re-admission (defined as an emergency department visit or urgent rehospitalisation) up to 30 days. Secondary outcomes were the 30-day count of outpatient physician visits and time to adverse drug event.Results
MedsCheck recipients had a lower risk of 30-day death or re-admission (23.4% vs 23.9%, HR 0.97, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.00, p=0.02), driven by a decreased risk of death (1.7% vs 2.1%, HR 0.79, 95% CI 0.73 to 0.86) and rehospitalisation (11.0% vs 11.4%, HR 0.96, 95% 0.93–0.99). In a post hoc sensitivity analysis with pharmacy random effects added to the propensity score model, these results were substantially attenuated. There was no significant difference in 30-day return to the emergency department (22.5% vs 22.8%, HR 0.99, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.01) or adverse drug events (1.5% vs 1.5%, HR 1.03, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.12). MedsCheck recipients had more outpatient visits (mean 2.11 vs 2.09, RR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.02, p=0.02).Conclusions and relevance
Among older adults, receipt of a community pharmacy-based medication reconciliation and adherence review was associated with a small reduced risk of short-term death or re-admission. Due to the possibility of unmeasured confounding, experimental studies are needed to clarify the relationship between postdischarge community pharmacy-based medication review and patient outcomes.
Electronic health records (EHR) can improve safety via computerised physician order entry with clinical decision support, designed in part to alert providers and prevent potential adverse drug events at entry and before they reach the patient. However, early evidence suggested performance at preventing adverse drug events was mixed.Methods
We used data from a national, longitudinal sample of 1527 hospitals in the USA from 2009 to 2016 who took a safety performance assessment test using simulated medication orders to test how well their EHR prevented medication errors with potential for patient harm. We calculated the descriptive statistics on performance on the assessment over time, by years of hospital experience with the test and across hospital characteristics. Finally, we used ordinary least squares regression to identify hospital characteristics associated with higher test performance.Results
The average hospital EHR system correctly prevented only 54.0% of potential adverse drug events tested on the 44-order safety performance assessment in 2009; this rose to 61.6% in 2016. Hospitals that took the assessment multiple times performed better in subsequent years than those taking the test the first time, from 55.2% in the first year of test experience to 70.3% in the eighth, suggesting efforts to participate in voluntary self-assessment and improvement may be helpful in improving medication safety performance.Conclusion
Hospital medication order safety performance has improved over time but is far from perfect. The specifics of EHR medication safety implementation and improvement play a key role in realising the benefits of computerising prescribing, as organisations have substantial latitude in terms of what they implement. Intentional quality improvement efforts appear to be a critical part of high safety performance and may indicate the importance of a culture of safety.
Healthcare systems are under stress as never before. An ageing population, increasing complexity and comorbidities, continual innovation, the ambition to allow unfettered access to care and the demands on professionals contrast sharply with the limited capacity of healthcare systems and the realities of financial austerity. This tension inevitably brings new and potentially serious hazards for patients and means that the overall quality of care frequently falls short of the standard expected by both patients and professionals. The early ambition of achieving consistently safe and high-quality care for all1 has not been realised and patients continue to be placed at risk. In this paper, we ask what strategies we might adopt to protect patients when healthcare systems and organisations are under stress and simply cannot provide the standard of care they aspire to.The evolution of poor performance
Teams and organisations constantly have to adapt to times...
Experience-based codesign (EBCD) is an approach to health service design that engages patients and healthcare staff in partnership to develop and improve health services or pathways of care. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the use (structure, process and outcomes) and reporting of EBCD in health service improvement activities.Methods
Electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and The Cochrane Library) were searched to identify peer-reviewed articles published from database inception to August 2018. Search terms identified peer-reviewed English language qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies that underwent independent screening by two authors. Full texts were independently reviewed by two reviewers and data were independently extracted by one reviewer before being checked by a second reviewer. Adherence to the 10 activities embedded within the eight-stage EBCD framework was calculated for each study.Results
We identified 20 studies predominantly from the UK and in acute mental health or cancer services. EBCD fidelity ranged from 40% to 100% with only three studies satisfying 100% fidelity.Conclusion
EBCD is used predominantly for quality improvement, but has potential to be used for intervention design projects. There is variation in the use of EBCD, with many studies eliminating or modifying some EBCD stages. Moreover, there is no consistency in reporting. In order to evaluate the effect of modifying EBCD or levels of EBCD fidelity, the outcomes of each EBCD phase (ie, touchpoints and improvement activities) should be reported in a consistent manner.Trial registration number
The labour and delivery environment relies heavily on interdisciplinary collaboration from anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and nurses or midwives to deliver optimal patient care. A large number of adverse events in obstetrics are associated with failure in communication and teamwork among team members, with substantive consequences. The objective of this study is to perform a systematic review of interventions aimed at improving teamwork in obstetrics.Methods
This systematic review identified and assessed randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of interventions aimed at improving teamwork among interdisciplinary teams in obstetrical care. Medline, CENTRAL, CINAHL and Embase were searched for studies evaluating one of: patient outcomes, team performance or processes of clinical efficiency. Identified citations were reviewed in duplicate for eligibility.Results
Nine RCTs met the inclusion criteria; five of these RCTs were conducted under simulated clinical environments. Simulation-based teamwork training interventions were the most represented (n=7 studies, 3047 healthcare providers (HCPs), 107 782 births), followed by checklists (n=1 study, 136 HCPs) and an electronic-based decision support tool (n=1 study, 296 HCPs). Simulation-based teamwork training was found to improve team performance in 100% of relevant studies (3 of 3 studies assessing team performance) and patient morbidity in 75% of relevant studies (3 of 4 studies assessing patient morbidity). However, no direct mortality benefit was identified among all the studies reviewed. Studies were assessed to be of low-moderate quality and had significant limitations in their study designs.Conclusion
While the evidence is still limited and from low to moderate quality RCTs, simulation-based teamwork interventions appear to improve team performance and patient morbidity in labour and delivery care.PROSPERO Trial registration number
Healthcare quality and safety span multiple topics across the spectrum of academic and clinical disciplines. Keeping abreast of the rapidly growing body of work can be challenging. In this series, we provide succinct summaries of selected relevant studies published in the last several months. Some articles will focus on a particular theme, while others will highlight unique publications from high-impact medical journals.
In a time-series analysis of institution-level rates of multidrug resistant organism colonisation and healthcare-associated infection, moving patients from a large hospital with mostly three-person and four-person ward-type rooms to a new hospital with exclusively single-patient rooms was associated with important changes. These included an immediate and sustained decrease in the rates of new colonisation with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as well as VRE infection, but no reduction in infection with MRSA or Clostridioides difficile. JAMA Intern...