Transform patient safety in the ED into 'safety framework'

A recent study in the American Journal of Medical Quality examines the need to measure patient safety in the emergency department, recognizing that it's important for policy makers, insurers, researchers, healthcare providers and patients alike.

"Developing performance indicators that are relevant, valid, feasible, and easy to measure has proven difficult," study authors note.

Researchers suggest a framework to measure safety through four domains:

  • how often patients are harmed
  • how often appropriate interventions are delivered
  • how well errors in the system are identified and corrected
  • emergency department (ED) safety culture

The study provides examples for the domains, but notes that the emergency medicine community needs to reach consensus on what measures are important for both the ED environment and the patients.

EDs may be in short supply, but visits are increasing--one in five U.S. adults headed to the emergency room at least once in 2011. The need for a safety framework in EDs could be more necessary than ever after a report from the RAND Corporation found that primary care physicians often rely more on ER doctors to evaluate their patients.

In related news, more than 800 wrong-patient medication errors were reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority in a six-month period, according to information in the June Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory released today. Errors were most common during the transcribing and administration phases and least often during the dispensing and prescribing phases, 

"While often thought to occur only during administration, wrong-patient events were identified across the continuum of the medication-use process from prescribing to monitoring of medications," Matt Grissinger, manager of medication safety analysis for the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority said in the announcement. "The events involved a wide range of medications and occurred on various patient care units and departments."

To learn more:
- see the study abstract
- read the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory announcement