Non-participant direct observation of healthcare processes offers a rich method for understanding safety and performance improvement. As a prospective method for error prediction and modelling, observation can capture a broad range of performance issues that can be related to higher aspects of the system.1–5 It can help identify underlying and recurrent problems6 that may be antecedents to more serious situations.7 It is also a way to understand the complexity of healthcare work that might otherwise be poorly understood or ignored,8 9 how workarounds influence work practices and safety,10 and is of fundamental importance to practitioners wishing to understand resilience in the face of conflicting workplace pressures.11 12 In some cases it will lead to the direct observation of near-misses or precursor events that...
Compassion has historically been defined as an underpinning principle of work conducted by health professionals, especially nurses.1 Numerous definitions of compassionate care exist, incorporating a range of elements. Most include a cognitive element: understanding what is important to the other by exploring their perspective; a volitional element: choosing to act to try and alleviate the other’s disquiet; an affective element: actively imagining what the other is going through; an altruistic element: reacting to the other’s needs selflessly; and a moral element: to not show compassion may compound any pain or distress already being experienced by the other.2 3 Appeals for more compassionate care have become common within international discourses, through initiatives such as Schwartz Rounds established in America, Hearts in Healthcare in New Zealand, and the Asia Pacific Healthcare Hub of Charter for Compassion. In the UK, a policy document called Compassion in...
‘To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.’
Health professions regulatory authorities are responsible for assessing the clinical performance of healthcare professionals.1 2 Some of them also have the responsibility for programming remediation interventions for health professionals with deficits in clinical performance.2 3 Available data on medical errors, malpractice claims, disciplinary actions and various other sources suggest that between 6% and 12% of physicians meet criteria for ‘dyscompetence’ in the USA.4 5 Elsewhere, the percentage varies according to the data sources.6 In Ontario, for instance, where the data come from randomly selected physicians, it is estimated that approximately 15% of family physicians and 3% of specialists have considerable deficiencies.4 7 8 Performance problems can have an impact on quality of care and...
Communicating patient information at shift change is a time-honoured nursing tradition. Historically referred to as ‘giving report’, the methods and information shared during nursing handoffs varied widely in modality (eg, face to face or through audio recordings), location (eg, in the break room, unit work centre or bedside) and format (eg, notes, formatted document or electronic health record). Although the shift change handoff process has evolved to increasingly emphasise face-to-face exchange and required data elements, variability persists,1 and the shift transition remains a vulnerable time for patients.
Shift changes generally, and the nursing handoff specifically, create gaps in care where errors may occur. In this issue of BMJ Quality and Safety, Starmer and colleagues2 describe a framework, IPASS, to bridge this gap. IPASS stands for Illness severity; Patient summary, Action list; Situation awareness and contingency planning; and Synthesis by receiver. IPASS is a handoff improvement bundle that provides a standardised structure...
Alongside concern about avoidable mortality, one of the key findings of the public enquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust,1 which ran Stafford Hospital in England, was the lack of compassion in care delivery. Sir Robert Francis, who led the enquiry, laid the blame for the compassion deficit at the door nursing and support staff. He recommended, among other things, that people should work as care assistants prior to nurse training and that values-based recruitment should be used to ensure that the ‘right’ people are recruited to be nurses. However, there has been little evidence to support these propositions. For example Snowden et al2 found that nursing students who had previous care jobs scored no higher for emotional intelligence than those without prior experience.
More recently opinion has shifted to the impact of compassionate leadership3 and compassionate environments on team behaviours....
Handoff communication errors are a leading source of sentinel events. We sought to determine the impact of a handoff improvement programme for nurses.Methods
We conducted a prospective pre-post intervention study on a paediatric intensive care unit in 2011–2012. The I-PASS Nursing Handoff Bundle intervention consisted of educational training, verbal handoff I-PASS mnemonic implementation, and visual materials to provide reinforcement and sustainability. We developed handoff direct observation and time motion workflow assessment tools to measure: (1) quality of the verbal handoff, including interruption frequency and presence of key handoff data elements; and (2) duration of handoff and other workflow activities.Results
I-PASS implementation was associated with improvements in verbal handoff communications, including inclusion of illness severity assessment (37% preintervention vs 67% postintervention, p=0.001), patient summary (81% vs 95%, p=0.05), to do list (35% vs 100%, p<0.001) and an opportunity for the receiving nurse to ask questions (34% vs 73%, p<0.001). Overall, 13/21 (62%) of verbal handoff data elements were more likely to be present following implementation whereas no data elements were less likely present. Implementation was associated with a decrease in interruption frequency pre versus post intervention (67% vs 40% of handoffs with interruptions, p=0.005) without a change in the median handoff duration (18.8 min vs 19.9 min, p=0.48) or changes in time spent in direct or indirect patient care activities.Conclusions
Implementation of the I-PASS Nursing Handoff Bundle was associated with widespread improvements in the verbal handoff process without a negative impact on nursing workflow. Implementation of I-PASS for nurses may therefore have the potential to significantly reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.
Because of fundamental differences in healthcare systems, US readmission data cannot be extrapolated to the European setting: To investigate the opinions of readmitted patients, their carers, nurses and physicians on predictability and preventability of readmissions and using majority consensus to determine contributing factors that could potentially foresee (preventable) readmissions.Design
Prospective observational study. Readmitted patients, their carers, and treating professionals were surveyed during readmission to assess the discharge process and the predictability and preventability of the readmission. Cohen’s Kappa measured pairwise agreement of considering readmission as predictable/preventable by patients, carers and professionals. Subsequently, multivariable logistic regressionidentified factors associated with predictability/preventability.Setting
15 hospitals in four European countriesParticipants
1398 medical patients readmitted unscheduled within 30 daysMain Outcome(s) and Measure(s)
(1) Agreement between the interviewed groups on considering readmissions likely predictable or preventable;(2) Factors distinguishing predictable from non-predictable and preventable from non-preventable readmissions.Results
The majority deemed 27.8% readmissions potentially predictable and 14.4% potentially preventable. The consensus on predictability and preventability was poor, especially between patients and professionals (kappas ranged from 0.105 to 0.173). The interviewed selected different factors as potentially associated with predictability and preventability. When a patient reported that he was ready for discharge during index admission, the readmission was deemed less likely by the majority (predictability: OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.40 to 0.75; preventability: OR 0.35; 95% CI 0.24 to 0.49).Conclusions
There is no consensus between readmitted patients, their carers and treating professionals about predictability and preventability of readmissions, nor associated risk factors. A readmitted patient reporting not feeling ready for discharge at index admission was strongly associated with preventability/predictability. Therefore, healthcare workers should question patients’ readiness to go home timely before discharge.
Despite concerns about the degree of compassion in contemporary healthcare, there is a dearth of evidence for health service managers about how to promote compassionate healthcare. This paper reports on the implementation of the Creating Learning Environments for Compassionate Care (CLECC) intervention by four hospital ward nursing teams. CLECC is a workplace educational intervention focused on developing sustainable leadership and work-team practices designed to support team relational capacity and compassionate care delivery.Objectives
To identify and explain the extent to which CLECC was implemented into existing work practices by nursing staff, and to inform conclusions about how such interventions can be optimised to support compassionate care in acute settings.Methods
Process evaluation guided by normalisation process theory. Data gathered included staff interviews (n=47), observations (n=7 over 26 hours) and ward manager questionnaires on staffing (n=4).Results
Frontline staff were keen to participate in CLECC, were able to implement many of the planned activities and valued the benefits to their well-being and to patient care. Nonetheless, factors outside of the direct influence of the ward teams mediated the impact and sustainability of the intervention. These factors included an organisational culture focused on tasks and targets that constrained opportunities for staff mutual support and learning.Conclusions
Relational work in caregiving organisations depends on individual caregiver agency and on whether or not this work is adequately supported by resources, norms and relationships located in the wider system. High cognitive participation in compassionate nursing care interventions such as CLECC by senior nurse managers is likely to result in improved impact and sustainability.
Health systems worldwide are increasingly holding boards of healthcare organisations accountable for the quality of care that they provide. Previous empirical research has found associations between certain board practices and higher quality patient care; however, little is known about how boards govern for quality improvement (QI).Methods
We conducted fieldwork over a 30-month period in 15 healthcare provider organisations in England as part of a wider evaluation of a board-level organisational development intervention. Our data comprised board member interviews (n=65), board meeting observations (60 hours) and documents (30 sets of board meeting papers, 15 board minutes and 15 Quality Accounts). We analysed the data using a framework developed from existing evidence of links between board practices and quality of care. We mapped the variation in how boards enacted governance of QI and constructed a measure of QI governance maturity. We then compared organisations to identify the characteristics of those with mature QI governance.Results
We found that boards with higher levels of maturity in relation to governing for QI had the following characteristics: explicitly prioritising QI; balancing short-term (external) priorities with long-term (internal) investment in QI; using data for QI, not just quality assurance; engaging staff and patients in QI; and encouraging a culture of continuous improvement. These characteristics appeared to be particularly enabled and facilitated by board-level clinical leaders.Conclusions
This study contributes to a deeper understanding of how boards govern for QI. The identified characteristics of organisations with mature QI governance seemed to be enabled by active clinical leadership. Future research should explore the biographies, identities and work practices of board-level clinical leaders and their role in organisation-wide QI.
Poor sign-out or handover of care may lead to preventable patient harm. Critically ill patients in intensive care units (ICU) are complex and prone to rapid clinical deterioration. If clinical deterioration occurs, timeliness of appropriate interventions is essential to prevent or reduce adverse outcomes. Therefore sign-outs need to efficiently transmit key information and provide anticipatory guidance. Interventions to improve resident-to-resident ICU sign-outs have not been well described. We conducted a controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a standardised ICU sign-out process to the usual ICU sign-out.Design
Prospective controlled trial.Setting
A 26-bed medical intensive care unit (MICU) in an urban tertiary academic medical centre.Subjects
Residents rotating through the MICU.Interventions
ICU-specific written sign-out template.Methods
Residents completed postcall surveys assessing satisfaction with verbal and written sign-outs and incidence of non-routine events. Our main outcome of interest was the occurrence of non-routine events.Main results
Compared with the intervention group, on significantly more nights, night float residents in the control group encountered patients who were sicker than sign-out would have suggested (15.94% vs 43.75%; p<0.0001). On significantly fewer nights, night float residents in the intervention group indicated that either something happened to patients that was unexpected (18.84% vs 36.51%; p=0.023) or they were insufficiently prepared for (4.35% vs 35.94%; p<0.0001). Similarly, on fewer nights, residents in the intervention group indicated that they had to perform interventions that were unplanned or unanticipated (15.9% vs 37.7%; p=0.005).Conclusion
A structured sign-out process compared with usual sign-out significantly reduced the occurrence of non-routine events in an academic MICU.
To assess the efficacy of an electronic discharge communication tool (e-DCT) for preventing death or hospital readmission, as well as reducing patient-reported adverse events after hospital discharge. The e-DCT assessed has already been shown to yield high-quality discharge summaries with high levels of patient and physician satisfaction.Methods
This two-arm randomised controlled trial was conducted in a Canadian tertiary care centre’s internal medicine medical teaching units. Out of the 1953 patients approached and screened for inclusion, 1399 were randomised and available for data linkage for determination of the primary outcome. Participants were randomly assigned to e-DCT versus usual care (traditional discharge communication generated by dictation). The primary outcome was a composite of death or readmission within 90 days. The secondary outcome included any patient-reported adverse events within 30 days of discharge.Results
Among 1399 randomised participants, 230 of 701 participants (32.8%) in the e-DCT group experienced the primary composite outcome of death or readmission within 90 days vs 205 of 698 participants (29.4%) in the usual care group (p=0.166). The incidence at 30 days of patient-reported adverse outcomes (35% for e-DCT vs 34% for usual care) and adverse events (2.1% for e-DCT vs 1.8% for usual care) also did not differ significantly between groups.Conclusions
The e-DCT tested did not reduce the composite endpoint of death or readmission at 90 days, nor the incidence of patient-reported adverse events at 30 days. This neutral finding for hard clinical endpoints needs to be considered in the context of high patient and physician satisfaction, and high quality of discharge summaries.
To provide an overview of the evidence regarding outcomes of remediation and rehabilitation programmes for healthcare professionals with performance concerns, and to explore if outcomes differ for specific concerns and professions.Methods
A search in four databases (Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and CINAHL) was conducted from 1 January 1990 to 7 May 2017. Studies reporting on outcomes of nationwide and state-wide programmes aimed at remediation and rehabilitating healthcare professionals with performance concerns (ie, dentists, midwives, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, physiotherapists, psychologists and psychotherapists) were included.Results
We included a total of 38 studies. More than half of the studies included programmes in the USA (57.9%), and a majority of studies focused on outcomes for physicians (78.9%) and on outcomes for substance use disorders (SUDs, 63.2%). Programme completion rates for SUDs were positive and approximately 80%–90% of participants were employed after treatment. Studies that reported on remediation outcomes for dyscompetence, almost all from Canada (7/8), showed varying results. One study compared outcomes for performance concerns in the same programme (ie, SUD and other mental and behavioural problems) and showed comparably successful results. No study specifically compared outcomes between professions.Conclusion
The literature is dominated by outcomes for physicians in North American programmes, with positive outcomes for SUD and varying outcomes for dyscompetence. Based on our findings we cannot make valid comparisons in outcomes between professions and specific performance concerns, and we call for other programmes to report on outcomes for different professions and concerns. Because of the positive outcomes of physician health programmes, other countries should consider introducing similar programmes to support healthcare professionals getting back on track.
In an apprenticeship model, for a trainee who is developing their skills, situating them in the workplace has distinct advantages. Starting from legitimate peripheral participation, the developing clinician is moulded by social interaction and collaboration while they learn from the spectrum of patients that make up a given clinical population.1 The goal is lasting behavioural and cognitive changes in the trainee as they take up the mantle of ‘expert clinician’.
However, to take on legitimate roles in the clinical workplace, a trainee requires direct just-in-time support, or ‘scaffolding’, in the form of supervision. Their preceptors provide enough support to ensure that safe and successful patient management can be accomplished. This is analogous to training wheels for someone learning to ride a bicycle—a scaffolding mechanism that enables a relative novice to perform the activity from start to finish when they...
Simulation-based training and assessment in healthcare are now commonplace in the majority of industrialised nations. The role of standardised patients, high-fidelity and low-fidelity manikins, synthetic, animal and virtual reality platforms, and simulation suites, are accepted, and integrated into training curricula in medical and nursing schools, and residency programmes. Despite this widespread use, only a handful of studies have assessed the impact of simulation-based education on patient and health system outcomes, and these studies have their focus on procedural skills such as central line insertion or laparoscopic surgery.1 2 Furthermore, the emphasis of such studies has been on simulation-based education as a tool to impact early learners, with minimal consideration of its use for independent practitioners such as attending physicians and experienced nurses.
An emerging area of simulation-based education is just-in-time training, or as it was termed by Niles et al in 2009, ‘rolling refreshers’, which...
Open communication between healthcare professionals about care concerns, also known as ‘speaking up’, is essential to patient safety.Objective
Compare interns' and residents' experiences, attitudes and factors associated with speaking up about traditional versus professionalism-related safety threats.Design
Anonymous, cross-sectional survey.Setting
Six US academic medical centres, 2013–2014.Participants
1800 medical and surgical interns and residents (47% responded).Measurements
Attitudes about, barriers and facilitators for, and self-reported experience with speaking up. Likelihood of speaking up and the potential for patient harm in two vignettes. Safety Attitude Questionnaire (SAQ) teamwork and safety scales; and Speaking Up Climate for Patient Safety (SUC-Safe) and Speaking Up Climate for Professionalism (SUC-Prof) scales.Results
Respondents more commonly observed unprofessional behaviour (75%, 628/837) than traditional safety threats (49%, 410/837); p<0.001, but reported speaking up about unprofessional behaviour less commonly (46%, 287/628 vs 71%, 291/410; p<0.001). Respondents more commonly reported fear of conflict as a barrier to speaking up about unprofessional behaviour compared with traditional safety threats (58%, 482/837 vs 42%, 348/837; p<0.001). Respondents were also less likely to speak up to an attending physician in the professionalism vignette than the traditional safety vignette, even when they perceived high potential patient harm (20%, 49/251 vs 71%, 179/251; p<0.001). Positive perceptions of SAQ teamwork climate and SUC-Safe were independently associated with speaking up in the traditional safety vignette (OR 1.90, 99% CI 1.36 to 2.66 and 1.46, 1.02 to 2.09, respectively), while only a positive perception of SUC-Prof was associated with speaking up in the professionalism vignette (1.76, 1.23 to 2.50).Conclusions
Interns and residents commonly observed unprofessional behaviour yet were less likely to speak up about it compared with traditional safety threats even when they perceived high potential patient harm. Measuring SUC-Safe, and particularly SUC-Prof, may fill an existing gap in safety culture assessment.
A subset of high-risk procedures present significant safety threats due to their (1) infrequent occurrence, (2) execution under time constraints and (3) immediate necessity for patient survival. A Just-in-Time (JIT) intervention could provide real-time bedside guidance to improve high-risk procedural performance and address procedural deficits associated with skill decay.Objective
To evaluate the impact of a novel JIT intervention on transvenous pacemaker (TVP) placement during a simulated patient event.Methods
This was a prospective, randomised controlled study to determine the effect of a JIT intervention on performance of TVP placement. Subjects included board-certified emergency medicine physicians from two hospitals. The JIT intervention consisted of a portable, bedside computer-based procedural adjunct. The primary outcome was performance during a simulated patient encounter requiring TVP placement, as assessed by trained raters using a technical skills checklist. Secondary outcomes included global performance ratings, time to TVP placement, number of critical omissions and System Usability Scale scores (intervention only).Results
Groups were similar at baseline across all outcomes. Compared with the control group, the intervention group demonstrated statistically significant improvement in the technical checklist score (11.45 vs 23.44, p<0.001, Cohen’s d effect size 4.64), the global rating scale (2.27 vs 4.54, p<0.001, Cohen’s d effect size 3.76), and a statistically significant reduction in critical omissions (2.23 vs 0.68, p<0.001, Cohen’s d effect size –1.86). The difference in time to procedural completion was not statistically significant between conditions (11.15 min vs 12.80 min, p=0.12, Cohen’s d effect size 0.65). System Usability Scale scores demonstrated excellent usability.Conclusion
A JIT intervention improved procedure perfromance, suggesting a role for JIT interventions in rarely performed procedures.
Relatively little attention has been devoted to the role of communication between physicians as a mechanism for individual and organisational learning about diagnostic delays. This study’s objective was to elicit physicians’ perceptions about and experiences with communication among physicians regarding diagnostic delays in cancer.Design, setting, participants
Qualitative analysis based on seven focus groups. Fifty-one physicians affiliated with three New York-based academic medical centres participated, with six to nine subjects per group. We used content analysis to identify commonalities among primary care physicians and specialists (ie, medical and surgical oncologists).Primary outcome measure
Perceptions and experiences with physician-to-physician communication about delays in cancer diagnosis.Results
Our analysis identified five major themes: openness to communication, benefits of communication, fears about giving and receiving feedback, infrastructure barriers to communication and overcoming barriers to communication. Subjects valued communication about cancer diagnostic delays, but they had many concerns and fears about providing and receiving feedback in practice. Subjects expressed reluctance to communicate if there was insufficient information to attribute responsibility, if it would have no direct benefit or if it would jeopardise their existing relationships. They supported sensitive approaches to conveying information, as they feared eliciting or being subject to feelings of incompetence or shame. Subjects also cited organisational barriers. They offered suggestions that might facilitate communication about delays.Conclusions
Addressing the barriers to communication among physicians about diagnostic delays is needed to promote a culture of learning across specialties and institutions. Supporting open and honest discussions about diagnostic delays may help build safer health systems.
To identify patient and family practice characteristics associated with patient-reported experiences of safety problems and harm.Design
Cross-sectional study combining data from the individual postal administration of the validated Patient Reported Experiences and Outcomes of Safety in Primary Care (PREOS-PC) questionnaire to a random sample of patients in family practices (response rate=18.4%) and practice-level data for those practices obtained from NHS Digital. We built linear multilevel multivariate regression models to model the association between patient-level (clinical and sociodemographic) and practice-level (size and case-mix, human resources, indicators of quality and safety of care, and practice safety activation) characteristics, and outcome measures.Setting
Practices distributed across five regions in the North, Centre and South of England.Participants
1190 patients registered in 45 practices purposefully sampled (maximal variation in practice size and levels of deprivation).Main outcome measures
Self-reported safety problems, harm and overall perception of safety.Results
Higher self-reported levels of safety problems were associated with younger age of patients (beta coefficient 0.15) and lower levels of practice safety activation (0.44). Higher self-reported levels of harm were associated with younger age (0.13) and worse self-reported health status (0.23). Lower self-reported healthcare safety was associated with lower levels of practice safety activation (0.40). The fully adjusted models explained 4.5% of the variance in experiences of safety problems, 8.6% of the variance in harm and 4.4% of the variance in perceptions of patient safety.Conclusions
Practices’ safety activation levels and patients’ age and health status are associated with patient-reported safety outcomes in English family practices. The development of interventions aimed at improving patient safety outcomes would benefit from focusing on the identified groups.
Readmissions of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have devastating effects on patient quality-of-life, disease progression and healthcare cost. Effective interventions to reduce COPD readmissions are needed.Objectives
Reduce 30-day all-cause readmissions by (1) creating a COPD care bundle that addresses care delivery failures, (2) using improvement science to achieve 90% bundle adherence.Setting
An 800-bed academic hospital in Ohio, USA. The COPD 30-day all-cause readmission rate was 22.7% from August 2013 to September 2015.Method
We performed a cross-sectional study of COPD 30-day readmissions from October 2014 to March 2015 to identify care delivery failures. We interviewed readmitted patients with COPD to identify their needs after discharge. A multidisciplinary team created a care bundle designed to mitigate system failures. Using a quasi-experimental study and ‘Model for Improvement’, we redesigned care delivery to improve bundle adherence. We used statistical process control charts to analyse bundle adherence and all-cause 30-day readmissions.Results
Cross-sectional review of the index (first-time) admissions revealed COPD was the most common readmission diagnosis and identified 42 system-level failures. The most prevalent failures were deficient inhaler regimen at discharge, late or non-existent follow-up appointments, and suboptimal discharge instructions. Patient interviews revealed confusing discharge instructions, especially regarding inhaler use. The COPD care-bundle components were: (1) appropriate inhaler regimen, (2) 30-day inhaler supply, (3) inhaler education on the device available postdischarge, (4) follow-up within 15 days (5) standardised patient-centred discharge instructions. The adherence to completing bundle components reached 90% in 5.5 months and was sustained. The COPD 30-day readmission rate decreased from 22.7% to 14.7%. Patients receiving all bundle components had a readmission rate of 10.9%. As a balancing measure for the targeted reduction in readmission rate, we assessed length of stay, which did not change (4.8 days before vs 4.6 days after; p=0.45).Conclusion
System-level failures and unmet patient needs are modifiable risks for readmissions. Development and reliable implementation of a COPD care bundle that mitigates these failures reduced COPD readmissions.
Time series charts are increasingly used by clinical teams to monitor their performance, but statistical control charts are not widely used, partly due to uncertainty about which chart to use. Although there is a large literature on methods, there are few systematic comparisons of charts for detecting changes in rates of binary clinical performance data.Methods
We compared four control charts for binary data: the Shewhart p-chart; the exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA) chart; the cumulative sum (CUSUM) chart; and the g-chart. Charts were set up to have the same long-term false signal rate. Chart performance was then judged according to the expected number of patients treated until a change in rate was detected.Results
For large absolute increases in rates (>10%), the Shewhart p-chart and EWMA both had good performance, although not quite as good as the CUSUM. For small absolute increases (<10%), the CUSUM detected changes more rapidly. The g-chart is designed to efficiently detect decreases in low event rates, but it again had less good performance than the CUSUM.Implications
The Shewhart p-chart is the simplest chart to implement and interpret, and performs well for detecting large changes, which may be useful for monitoring processes of care. The g-chart is a useful complement for determining the success of initiatives to reduce low-event rates (eg, adverse events). The CUSUM may be particularly useful for faster detection of problems with patient safety leading to increases in adverse event rates.