On 1 September 2020, we took on the roles of co-editors-in-chief for BMJ Quality and Safety, and want to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves and our vision for the journal. We represent two different continents, two different professions and two different sets of research expertise. What we have in common is a passion for conducting and publishing high-quality research and quality improvement work to benefit the quality and safety of patient care, as well as encouraging others to do likewise.
We assume leadership of the journal during a major worldwide crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected almost every aspect of society. Response to the pandemic is requiring engagement from every part of our health care systems—government policy, public health, ambulatory care, inpatient and long-term care, every type of healthcare worker, and of course patients and their care partners. Most journals, including ours, have seen...
Patients entrust their lives to healthcare providers. Healthcare providers, in turn, aim to promote wellness, heal what can be healed and relieve suffering, all with comfort and compassion. Yet, when patients are harmed by their healthcare, too often they experience defensiveness and disregard that actually exacerbates their suffering, adding insult to injury.1 2 Communication and resolution programmes (CRP) can mitigate this further harm and avoid pouring salt on the wounds of patients whom the healthcare system has hurt instead of helped. These programmes strive to ensure that patients and families injured by medical care receive prompt attention, honest and empathic explanations, sincere expressions of reconciliation including financial and non-financial restitution, and reassurance from efforts to prevent future harm to others.3 Decades of study and interest in CRPs seem to be resulting in increased implementation with the hope that supporting patients, families and caregivers...
At this very moment, somewhere in the world, an intravenous catheter is being placed in a hospitalised patient. Whether the device is small and being placed in a vein in the arm (eg, peripheral intravenous catheter) or large and inserted into a great vessel within the chest (eg, implanted port), they share several characteristics. First, they are all designed to deliver potentially life-saving therapies such as antibiotics, fluids and nutrition or blood products. Indeed, safe and reliable venous access is a cornerstone to medical care in the 20th century. Second, in order to access the venous network, they must penetrate through the skin to provide a pathway to the bloodstream. Consequently, they each carry a risk of both infectious and non-infectious complications. Thus, to keep patients safe, selecting the most appropriate device—one that balances risks against benefits—is paramount to ensure optimal outcomes.
While this statement may seem obvious, evidence...
How openly healthcare providers communicate after a medical error may influence long-term impacts. We sought to understand whether greater open communication is associated with fewer persisting emotional impacts, healthcare avoidance and loss of trust.Methods
Cross-sectional 2018 recontact survey assessing experience with medical error in a 2017 random digit dial survey of Massachusetts residents. Two hundred and fifty-three respondents self-reported medical error. Respondents were similar to non-respondents in sociodemographics confirming minimal response bias. Time since error was categorised as <1, 1–2 or 3–6 years before interview. Open communication was measured with six questions assessing different communication elements. Persistent impacts included emotional (eg, sadness, anger), healthcare avoidance (specific providers or all medical care) and loss of trust in healthcare. Logistic regressions examined the association between open communication and long-term impacts.Results
Of respondents self-reporting a medical error 3–6 years ago, 51% reported at least one current emotional impact; 57% reported avoiding doctor/facilities involved in error; 67% reported loss of trust. Open communication varied: 34% reported no communication and 24% reported ≥5 elements. Controlling for error severity, respondents reporting the most open communication had significantly lower odds of persisting sadness (OR=0.17, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.60, p=0.006), depression (OR=0.16, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.77, p=0.022) or feeling abandoned/betrayed (OR=0.10, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.48, p=0.004) compared with respondents reporting no communication. Open communication significantly predicted less doctor/facility avoidance, but was not associated with medical care avoidance or healthcare trust.Conclusions
Negative emotional impacts from medical error can persist for years. Open communication is associated with reduced emotional impacts and decreased avoidance of doctors/facilities involved in the error. Communication and resolution programmes could facilitate transparent conversations and reduce some of the negative impacts of medical error.
Communication-and-resolution programmes (CRP) aim to increase transparency surrounding adverse events, improve patient safety and promote reconciliation by proactively meeting injured patients’ needs. Although early adopters of CRP models reported relatively smooth implementation, other organisations have struggled to achieve the same. However, two Massachusetts hospital systems implementing a CRP demonstrated high fidelity to protocol without raising liability costs.Study question
What factors may account for the Massachusetts hospitals’ ability to implement their CRP successfully?Setting
The CRP was collaboratively designed by two academic medical centres, four of their community hospitals and a multistakeholder coalition.Data and methods
Data were synthesised from (1) key informant interviews around the time of implementation and 2 years later with individuals important to the CRP’s success and (2) notes from 89 teleconferences between hospitals’ CRP implementation teams and study staff to discuss implementation progress. Interview transcripts and teleconference notes were analysed using standard methods of thematic content analysis. A total of 45 individuals participated in interviews (n=24 persons in 38 interviews), teleconferences (n=32) or both (n=11).Results
Participants identified facilitators of the hospitals’ success as: (1) the support of top institutional leaders, (2) heavy investments in educating physicians about the programme, (3) active cultivation of the relationship between hospital risk managers and representatives from the liability insurer, (4) the use of formal decision protocols, (5) effective oversight by full-time project managers, (6) collaborative group implementation, and (7) small institutional size.Conclusion
Although not necessarily causal, several distinctive factors appear to be associated with successful CRP implementation.
Peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC) are among the most commonly used medical devices in hospital. This study sought to determine the appropriateness of inpatient PICC use in general medicine at five academic hospitals in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, based on the Michigan Appropriateness Guide for Intravenous Catheters (MAGIC).Methods
This was a retrospective, cross-sectional study of general internal medicine patients discharged between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2015 who received a PICC during hospitalisation. The primary outcomes were the proportions of appropriate and inappropriate inpatient PICC use based on MAGIC recommendations. Hospital administrative data and electronic clinical data were used to determine appropriateness of each PICC placement. Multivariable regression models were fit to explore patient predictors of inappropriate use.Results
Among 3479 PICC placements, 1848 (53%, 95% CI 51% to 55%) were appropriate, 573 (16%, 95% CI 15% to 18%) were inappropriate and 1058 (30%, 95% CI 29% to 32%) were of uncertain appropriateness. The proportion of appropriate and inappropriate PICCs ranged from 44% to 61% (p<0.001) and 13% to 21% (p<0.001) across hospitals, respectively. The most common reasons for inappropriate PICC use were placement in patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (n=500, 14%) and use for fewer than 15 days in patients who are critically ill (n=53), which represented 14% of all PICC placements in the intensive care unit. Patients who were older, female, had a Charlson Comorbidity Index score greater than 0 and more severe illness based on the Laboratory-based Acute Physiology Score were more likely to receive an inappropriate PICC.Conclusions
Clinical practice recommendations can be operationalised into measurable domains to estimate the appropriateness of PICC insertions using routinely collected hospital data. Inappropriate PICC use was common and varied substantially across hospitals in this study, suggesting that there are important opportunities to improve care.
Blunt head injury is a common pediatric injury and often evaluated in general emergency departments. It estimated that 50% of children will undergo a head computed tomography (CT), often unnecessarily exposing the child to ionizing radiation. Pediatric academic centers have shown quality improvement (QI) measures can reduce head CT rates within their emergency departments. We aimed to reduce head CT utilization at a rural community emergency department.Methods
Children presenting with a complaint of blunt head injury and were evaluated with or without a head CT. Head CT rate was the primary outcome. We developed a series of interventions and presented these to the general emergency department over the duration of the study. The pre and intervention data was analysed with control charts.Results
The preintervention and intervention groups consisted of 576 children: 237 patients with a median age of 8.0 years and 339 patients with a median age of 9.00 years (p=0.54), respectively. The preintervention HCT rate was 41.8% (95% CI 35.6% to 48.1%) and the postintervention rate was 27.7% (95% CI 23.3% to 32.7%), a decrease of 14.1% (95% CI 6.2% to 21.9%, p=0.0004). During the intervention period, there was a decrease in HCT rate of one per month (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.00, p=0.07). The initial series of interventions demonstrated an incremental decrease in HCT rates corresponding with a special cause variation.Conclusion
The series of interventions dispersed over the intervention period was an effective methodology and successfully reduced HCT utilisation among children with blunt head injury at a rural community emergency department.
Community pharmacists are well positioned to support patients’ minor ailments. The objective was to evaluate the clinical and humanistic impact of a minor ailment service (MAS) in community pharmacy compared with usual pharmacist care (UC).Methods
A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted. Intervention patients received MAS, which included a consultation with the pharmacist. MAS pharmacists were trained in clinical pathways and communication systems mutually agreed with general practitioners and received monthly support. Control patients received UC. All patients were followed up by telephone at 14 days. Clinical and humanistic impact were defined by primary (appropriate referral rate and appropriate non-prescription medicine rate) and secondary outcomes (clinical product-based intervention rate, referral adherence, symptom resolution, reconsultation and EuroQol EQ-5D visual analogue scale (VAS)).Results
Patients (n=894) were recruited from 30 pharmacies and 82% (n=732) responded to follow-up. Patients receiving MAS were 1.5 times more likely to receive an appropriate referral (relative rate (RR)=1.51; 95% CI 1.07 to 2.11; p=0.018) and were five times more likely to adhere to referral, compared with UC (RR=5.08; 95%CI 2.02 to 12.79; p=0.001). MAS patients (94%) achieved symptom resolution or relief at follow-up, while this was 88% with UC (RR=1.06; 95% CI 1 to 1.13; p=0.035). MAS pharmacists were 1.2 times more likely to recommend an appropriate medicine (RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.3; p=0.000) and were 2.6 times more likely to perform a clinical product-based intervention (RR=2.62, 95% CI 1.28 to 5.38; p=0.009), compared with UC. MAS patients had a greater mean difference in VAS at follow-up (4.08; 95% CI 1.23 to 6.87; p=0.004). No difference in reconsultation was observed (RR=0.98; 95% CI 0.75 to 1.28; p=0.89).Conclusion
The study demonstrates improved clinical and humanistic outcomes with MAS. National implementation is a means to manage minor ailments more effectively in the Australian health system.Trial registration number
Human auditing has been the gold standard for evaluating hand hygiene (HH) compliance but is subject to the Hawthorne effect (HE), the change in subjects’ behaviour due to their awareness of being observed. For the first time, we used electronic HH monitoring to characterise the duration of the HE on HH events after human auditors have left the ward.Methods
Observations were prospectively conducted on two transplant wards at a tertiary centre between May 2018 and January 2019. HH events were measured using the electronic GOJO Smartlink Activity Monitoring System located throughout the ward. Non-covert human auditing was conducted in 1-hour intervals at random locations on both wards on varying days of the week. Two adjusted negative binomial regression models were fit in order to estimate an overall auditor effect and a graded auditor effect.Results
In total, 365 674 HH dispensing events were observed out of a possible 911 791 opportunities. In the adjusted model, the presence of an auditor increased electronic HH events by approximately 2.5-fold in the room closest to where the auditor was standing (9.86 events per hour/3.98 events per hour; p<0.01), an effect sustained across only the partial hour before and after the auditor was present but not beyond the first hour after the auditor left. This effect persisted but was attenuated in areas distal from the auditor (total ward events of 6.91*6.32–7.55, p<0.01). Additionally, there was significant variability in the magnitude of the HE based on temporal and geographic distribution of audits.Conclusion
The HE on HH events appears to last for a limited time on inpatient wards and is highly dynamic across time and auditor location. These findings further challenge the validity and value of human auditing and support the need for alternative and complementary monitoring methods.
Every patient admitted to the hospital, scheduled for a procedure or facing a life-limiting illness potentially confronts a decision about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Despite their importance and frequency, resuscitation or code status discussions (CSD) are often not included in broader serious illness conversations (SIC) or ignored altogether.1 CSDs for patients with serious, life-limiting illness should be incorporated into comprehensive serious illness care delivery, which includes discussions about advance care planning and goals of care at every stage of illness; ideally, for most patients, this will occur early in the disease trajectory.1 Yet, even when conversations occur, health systems frequently do not capture code status in an accurate, retrievable, timely and consistent manner.2 Failing to understand, document and act on patients’ preferences may lead to harm, like other medical errors. Potential outcomes of ineffective CSDs include unwanted CPR or other invasive procedures,...
In healthcare quality improvement, we are trained to believe that, "every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets".1 By focusing relentlessly on getting the process right, we will know we can arrive at better outcomes.2 Over the past decade, however, publicly reported metrics for hospitals have moved away from process metrics, further emphasising outcome metrics. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has major pay-for-performance programmes for hospitals aimed squarely at improving outcomes, such as hospital-acquired infections and 30-day readmission rates. US News and World Report’s and Leapfrog’s hospital rankings heavily weight outcomes, such as 30-day mortality rates and postoperative complications. In this viewpoint, we propose that although process measures have had limitations that led to the shift towards outcome measures, new developments in electronic health records, data collection, and quality measurement have the potential to overcome these limitations and vastly...
Loss to follow-up is an under-recognised problem in primary care. Continuity with a primary care provider improves morbidity and mortality in the Veterans Health Administration. We sought to reduce the percentage of patients lost to follow-up at the Northeast Ohio Veterans Affairs Healthcare System from October 2017 to March 2019.Methods
The Panel Retention Tool (PRT) was developed and tested with primary care teams using multiple Plan, Do, Study and Act cycles to identify and schedule lost to follow-up patients. Baseline data on loss to follow-up, defined as the percentage of panelled patients not seen in primary care in the past year, was collected over 6 months during tool development. Outcomes were tracked from implementation through spread and sustainment (12 months) across 14 primary care clinics.Results
Of the 96 170 panelled patients at the beginning of the study period, 2715 (2.8%) were found to be inactive and removed from provider panels, improving panel reliability. Among the remaining, 1856 (1.9%) patients without scheduled follow-up were scheduled for future care, and 1239 (1.3%) without recent prior care completed encounters during the study period. The percentage of patients lost to follow-up decreased from 10.1% (lower control limit (LCL) 9.8%–upper control limit (UCL) 10.4%) at baseline to 6.4% (LCL 6.2%–UCL 6.7%) postintervention and patients without planned future care decreased from 21.7% (LCL 21.3%–UCL 22.1%) to 17.1% (LCL 16.7%–UCL 17.5%).Conclusions
The PRT allowed primary care teams in an integrated health system to identify and schedule lost to follow-up patients. Ease of use, adaptability and encouraging outcomes facilitated spread. This has the potential to contribute to more appropriate utilisation of healthcare resources and improved access to primary care.
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.
For patients who have sustained a myocardial infarction, low-cost interventions (eg, mail-outs and telephone calls) to augment secondary prevention increase uptake of cardiac rehabilitation but not adherence to medications. BMJ. 08 April 2020.
A policy change that eliminated reimbursement for population-based screening of vitamin D deficiency led to a marked decrease in low-value testing, while recommendations from the Choosing Wisely campaign had only a small effect on vitamin D screening and no effect on low-value testing of triiodothyronine. JAMA...