Patient safety

Selected bibliography supporting the ten essential objectives for safe surgery

9. The team will effectively communicate and exchange critical patient information for the safe conduct of the operation.

Greenberg, C. C., S. E. Regenbogen, et al. (2007). "Patterns of communication breakdowns resulting in injury to surgical patients." J Am Coll Surg 204(4): 533-40.

  • BACKGROUND: Communication breakdowns are a common threat to surgical safety, but there are little data to guide initiatives to improve communication.
  • STUDY DESIGN: In surgeon-review of 444 surgical malpractice claims from 4 liability insurers, we identified 60 cases involving communication breakdowns resulting in harm to patients. Two surgeon-reviewers analyzed these cases to identify common characteristics and associated factors. Based on identified patterns, potential interventions to prevent communication breakdowns were developed and their potential impact was assessed.
  • RESULTS: The 60 cases involved 81 communication breakdowns, occurring in the preoperative (38%), intraoperative (30%), and postoperative periods (32%). Seventy-two percent of cases involved one communication breakdown. The majority of breakdowns were verbal communications (92%) involving 1 transmitter and 1 receiver (64%). Attending surgeons were the most common team member involved. Status asymmetry (74%) and ambiguity about responsibilities (73%) were commonly associated factors. Forty-three percent of communication breakdowns occurred with handoffs and 39% with transfers in the patient's location. The most common communication breakdowns involved residents failing to notify the attending surgeon of critical events and a failure of attending-to-attending handoffs. Proposed interventions could prevent 45% to 73% of communication breakdowns in this cases series.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Serious communication breakdowns occur across the continuum of care, typically result from a failure in verbal communication between a surgical attending and another caregiver, and often involve ambiguity about responsibilities. Interventions to prevent these breakdowns should involve: defined triggers that mandate communication with an attending surgeon; structured handoffs and transfer protocols; and standard use of read-backs.

Lingard, L., S. Espin, et al. (2005). "Getting teams to talk: development and pilot implementation of a checklist to promote interprofessional communication in the OR." Qual.Saf Health Care 14(5): 340-346.

  • BACKGROUND: Pilot studies of complex interventions such as a team checklist are an essential precursor to evaluating how these interventions affect quality and safety of care. We conducted a pilot implementation of a preoperative team communication checklist. The objectives of the study were to assess the feasibility of the checklist (that is, team members' willingness and ability to incorporate it into their work processes); to describe how the checklist tool was used by operating room (OR) teams; and to describe perceived functions of the checklist discussions.
  • METHODS: A checklist prototype was developed and OR team members were asked to implement it before 18 surgical procedures. A research assistant was present to prompt the participants, if necessary, to initiate each checklist discussion. Trained observers recorded ethnographic field notes and 11 brief feedback interviews were conducted. Observation and interview data were analyzed for trends.
  • RESULTS: The checklist was implemented by the OR team in all 18 study cases. The rate of team participation was 100% (33 vascular surgery team members). The checklist discussions lasted 1-6 minutes (mean 3.5) and most commonly took place in the OR before the patient's arrival. Perceived functions of the checklist discussions included provision of detailed case related information, confirmation of details, articulation of concerns or ambiguities, team building, education, and decision making. Participants consistently valued the checklist discussions. The most significant barrier to undertaking the team checklist was variability in team members' preoperative workflow patterns, which sometimes presented a challenge to bringing the entire team together.
  • CONCLUSIONS: The preoperative team checklist shows promise as a feasible and efficient tool that promotes information exchange and team cohesion. Further research is needed to determine the sustainability and generalizability of the checklist intervention, to fully integrate the checklist routine into workflow patterns, and to measure its impact on patient safety

Lingard, L., S. Espin, et al. (2004). "Communication failures in the operating room: an observational classification of recurrent types and effects." Qual.Saf Health Care 13(5): 330-334.

  • BACKGROUND: Ineffective team communication is frequently at the root of medical error. The objective of this study was to describe the characteristics of communication failures in the operating room (OR) and to classify their effects. This study was part of a larger project to develop a team checklist to improve communication in the OR.
  • METHODS: Trained observers recorded 90 hours of observation during 48 surgical procedures. Ninety four team members participated from anesthesia (16 staff, 6 fellows, 3 residents), surgery (14 staff, 8 fellows, 13 residents, 3 clerks), and nursing (31 staff). Field notes recording procedurally relevant communication events were analysed using a framework which considered the content, audience, purpose, and occasion of a communication exchange. A communication failure was defined as an event that was flawed in one or more of these dimensions.
  • RESULTS: 421 communication events were noted, of which 129 were categorized as communication failures. Failure types included "occasion" (45.7% of instances) where timing was poor; "content" (35.7%) where information was missing or inaccurate, "purpose" (24.0%) where issues were not resolved, and "audience" (20.9%) where key individuals were excluded. 36.4% of failures resulted in visible effects on system processes including inefficiency, team tension, resource waste, workaround, delay, patient inconvenience and procedural error.
  • CONCLUSION: Communication failures in the OR exhibited a common set of problems. They occurred in approximately 30% of team exchanges and a third of these resulted in effects which jeopardized patient safety by increasing cognitive load, interrupting routine, and increasing tension in the OR.

Lingard, L., G. Regehr, et al. (2008). "Evaluation of a preoperative checklist and team briefing among surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists to reduce failures in communication." Arch Surg 143(1): 12-7; discussion 18.

  • OBJECTIVE: To assess whether structured team briefings improve operating room communication. Design, Setting, and
  • PARTICIPANTS: This 13-month prospective study used a preintervention/postintervention design. All staff and trainees in the division of general surgery at a Canadian academic tertiary care hospital were invited to participate. Participants included 11 general surgeons, 24 surgical trainees, 41 operating room nurses, 28 anesthesiologists, and 24 anesthesia trainees.
  • INTERVENTION: Surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists gathered before 302 patient procedures for a short team briefing structured by a checklist. Main Outcome Measure The primary outcome measure was the number of communication failures (late, inaccurate, unresolved, or exclusive communication) per procedure. Communication failures and their consequences were documented by 1 of 4 trained observers using a validated observational scale. Secondary outcomes were the number of checklist briefings that demonstrated "utility" (an effect on the knowledge or actions of the team) and participants' perceptions of the briefing experience.
  • RESULTS: One hundred seventy-two procedures were observed (86 preintervention, 86 postintervention). The mean (SD) number of communication failures per procedure declined from 3.95 (3.20) before the intervention to 1.31 (1.53) after the intervention (P < .001). Thirty-four percent of briefings demonstrated utility, including identification of problems, resolution of critical knowledge gaps, decision-making, and follow-up actions.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Interprofessional checklist briefings reduced the number of communication failures and promoted proactive and collaborative team communication.

Makary, M. A., C. G. Holzmueller, et al. (2006). "Operating room debriefings." Jt.Comm J.Qual.Patient.Saf 32(7): 407-10, 357.

Makary, M. A., A. Mukherjee, et al. (2007). "Operating room briefings and wrong-site surgery." J.Am.Coll.Surg. 204(2): 236-243.

  • BACKGROUND: Wrong-site surgery can be a catastrophic event for a patient, caregiver, and institution. Although communication breakdowns have been identified as the leading cause of wrong-site surgery, the efficacy of preventive strategies remains unknown. This study evaluated the impact of operating room briefings on coordination of care and risk for wrong-site surgery.
  • STUDY DESIGN: We administered a case-based version of the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire (SAQ) to operating room (OR) staff at an academic medical center, before and after initiation of an OR briefing program. Items questioned overall coordination and awareness of the surgical site. Response options ranged from 1 (disagree strongly) to 5 (agree strongly). MANOVA was used to compare caregiver assessments before and after the implementation of briefings, and the percentage of OR staff agreeing or disagreeing with each question was reported.
  • RESULTS: The prebriefing response rate was 85% (306 of 360 respondents), and the postbriefing response rate was 75% (116 of 154). Respondents included surgeons (34.9%), anesthesiologists (14.0%), and nurses (44.4%). Briefings were associated with caregiver perceptions of reduced risk for wrong-site surgery and improved collaboration [F (6,390)=10.15, p < 0.001]. Operating room caregiver assessments of briefing and wrong-site surgery issues improved for 5 of 6 items, eg, "Surgery and anesthesia worked together as a well-coordinated team" (67.9% agreed prebriefing, 91.5% agreed postbriefing, p < 0.0001), and "A preoperative discussion increased my awareness of the surgical site and side being operated on" (52.4% agreed prebriefing, 64.4% agreed postbriefing, p < 0.001).
  • CONCLUSIONS: OR briefings significantly reduce perceived risk for wrong-site surgery and improve perceived collaboration among OR personnel

Makary, M. A., J. B. Sexton, et al. (2006). "Operating room teamwork among physicians and nurses: teamwork in the eye of the beholder." J.Am.Coll.Surg. 202(5): 746-752.

  • BACKGROUND: Teamwork is an important component of patient safety. In fact, communication errors are the most common cause of sentinel events and wrong-site operations in the US. Although efforts to improve patient safety through improving teamwork are growing, there is no validated tool to scientifically measure teamwork in the surgical setting.
  • STUDY DESIGN: Operating room personnel in 60 hospitals were surveyed using the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire. Surgeons, anesthesiologists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and operating room nurses rated their own peers and each other using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = very low, 5 = very high).
  • RESULTS: Overall response rate was 77.1% (2,135 of 2,769). Ratings of teamwork differed substantially by operating room caregiver type, with the greatest differences in ratings shown by physicians: surgeons (F[4, 2058] = 41.73, p < 0.001), and anesthesiologists (F[4, 1990] = 53.15, p < 0.001). The percent of operating room caregivers rating the quality of collaboration and communication as "high" or "very high" was different by caregiver role and whether they were rating a peer or another type of caregiver: surgeons rated other surgeons "high" or "very high" 85% of the time, and nurses rated their collaboration with surgeons "high" or "very high" only 48% of the time.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Considerable discrepancies in perceptions of teamwork exist in the operating room, with physicians rating the teamwork of others as good, but at the same time, nurses perceive teamwork as mediocre. Given the importance of communication and collaboration in patient safety, health care organizations should measure teamwork using a scientifically valid method. The Safety Attitudes Questionnaire can be used to measure teamwork, identify disconnects between or within disciplines, and evaluate interventions aimed at improving patient safety.

Pronovost, P., D. Needham, et al. (2006). "An intervention to decrease catheter-related bloodstream infections in the ICU." N Engl J Med 355(26): 2725-32.

  • BACKGROUND: Catheter-related bloodstream infections occurring in the intensive care unit (ICU) are common, costly, and potentially lethal.
  • METHODS: We conducted a collaborative cohort study predominantly in ICUs in Michigan. An evidence-based intervention was used to reduce the incidence of catheter-related bloodstream infections. Multilevel Poisson regression modeling was used to compare infection rates before, during, and up to 18 months after implementation of the study intervention. Rates of infection per 1000 catheter-days were measured at 3-month intervals, according to the guidelines of the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance System.
  • RESULTS: A total of 108 ICUs agreed to participate in the study, and 103 reported data. The analysis included 1981 ICU-months of data and 375,757 catheter-days. The median rate of catheter-related bloodstream infection per 1000 catheter-days decreased from 2.7 infections at baseline to 0 at 3 months after implementation of the study intervention (P< or =0.002), and the mean rate per 1000 catheter-days decreased from 7.7 at baseline to 1.4 at 16 to 18 months of follow-up (P<0.002). The regression model showed a significant decrease in infection rates from baseline, with incidence-rate ratios continuously decreasing from 0.62 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.47 to 0.81) at 0 to 3 months after implementation of the intervention to 0.34 (95% CI, 0.23 to 0.50) at 16 to 18 months.
  • CONCLUSIONS: An evidence-based intervention resulted in a large and sustained reduction (up to 66%) in rates of catheter-related bloodstream infection that was maintained throughout the 18-month study period.

Reason, J. (1992). Human Error. Cambridge, Mass, Cambridge University Press.

Reason, J. (1995). "Understanding adverse events: human factors." Qual.Health Care 4(2): 80-89.

  • Human rather than technical failures now represent the greatest threat to complex and potentially hazardous systems. This includes healthcare systems.
  • Managing the human risks will never be 100% effective. Human fallibility can be moderated, but it cannot be eliminated.
  • Different error types have different underlying mechanisms, occur in different parts of the organisation, and require different methods of risk management. The basic distinctions are between: Slips, lapses, trips, and fumbles (execution failures) and mistakes (planning or problem solving failures). Mistakes are divided into rule based mistakes and knowledge based mistakes. Errors (information-handling problems) and violations (motivational problems) Active versus latent failures. Active failures are committed by those in direct contact with the patient, latent failures arise in organisational and managerial spheres and their adverse effects may take a long time to become evident.
  • Safety significant errors occur at all levels of the system, not just at the sharp end. Decisions made in the upper echelons of the organisation create the conditions in the workplace that subsequently promote individual errors and violations. Latent failures are present long before an accident and are hence prime candidates for principled risk management.
  • Measures that involve sanctions and exhortations (that is, moralistic measures directed to those at the sharp end) have only very limited effectiveness, especially so in the case of highly trained professionals.
  • Human factors problems are a product of a chain of causes in which the individual psychological factors (that is, momentary inattention, forgetting, etc) are the last and least manageable links. Attentional "capture" (preoccupation or distraction) is a necessary condition for the commission of slips and lapses. Yet, its occurrence is almost impossible to predict or control effectively. The same is true of the factors associated with forgetting. States of mind contributing to error are thus extremely difficult to manage; they can happen to the best of people at any time.
  • People do not act in isolation. Their behaviour is shaped by circumstances. The same is true for errors and violations. The likelihood of an unsafe act being committed is heavily influenced by the nature of the task and by the local workplace conditions. These, in turn, are the product of "upstream" organisational factors. Great gains in safety can ve achieved through relatively small modifications of equipment and workplaces.
  • Automation and increasing advanced equipment do not cure human factors problems, they merely relocate them. In contrast, training people to work effectively in teams costs little, but has achieved significant enhancements of human performance in aviation.
  • Effective risk management depends critically on a confidential and preferable anonymous incident monitoring system that records the individual, task, situational, and organisational factors associated with incidents and near misses.
  • Effective risk management means the simultaneous and targeted deployment of limited remedial resources at different levels of the system: the individual or team, the task, the situation, and the organisation as a whole

Reason, J. (2000). "Human error: models and management." Bmj 320(7237): 768-70.

Reason, J. (2002). "Combating omission errors through task analysis and good reminders." Qual Saf Health Care 11(1): 40-4.

  • Leaving out necessary task steps is the single most common human error type. Certain task steps possess characteristics that are more likely to provoke omissions than others, and can be identified in advance. The paper reports two studies. The first, involving a simple photocopier, established that failing to remove the last page of the original is the commonest omission. This step possesses four distinct error-provoking features that combine their effects in an additive fashion. The second study examined the degree to which everyday memory aids satisfy five features of a good reminder: conspicuity, contiguity, content, context, and countability. A close correspondence was found between the percentage use of strategies and the degree to which they satisfied these five criteria. A three stage omission management programme was outlined: task analysis (identifying discrete task steps) of some safety critical activity; assessing the omission likelihood of each step; and the choice and application of a suitable reminder. Such a programme is applicable to a variety of healthcare procedures.

Sexton, J. B., M. A. Makary, et al. (2006). "Teamwork in the operating room: frontline perspectives among hospitals and operating room personnel." Anesthesiology 105(5): 877-884.

  • BACKGROUND: The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations is proposing that hospitals measure culture beginning in 2007. However, a reliable and widely used measurement tool for the operating room (OR) setting does not currently exist.
  • METHODS: OR personnel in 60 US hospitals were surveyed using the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire. The teamwork climate domain of the survey uses six items about difficulty speaking up, conflict resolution, physician-nurse collaboration, feeling supported by others, asking questions, and heeding nurse input. To justify grouping individual-level responses to a single score at each hospital OR level, the authors used a multilevel confirmatory factor analysis, intraclass correlations, within-group interrater reliability, and Cronbach's alpha. To detect differences at the hospital OR level and by caregiver type, the authors used multivariate analysis of variance (items) and analysis of variance (scale).
  • RESULTS: The response rate was 77.1%. There was robust evidence for grouping individual-level respondents to the hospital OR level using the diverse set of statistical tests, e.g., Comparative Fit Index = 0.99, root mean squared error of approximation = 0.05, and acceptable intraclasss correlations, within-group interrater reliability values, and Cronbach's alpha = 0.79. Teamwork climate differed significantly by hospital (F59, 1,911 = 4.06, P < 0.001) and OR caregiver type (F4, 1,911 = 9.96, P < 0.001).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Rigorous assessment of teamwork climate is possible using this psychometrically sound teamwork climate scale. This tool and initial benchmarks allow others to compare their teamwork climate to national means, in an effort to focus more on what excellent surgical teams do well

Sexton, J. B., E. J. Thomas, et al. (2000). "Error, stress, and teamwork in medicine and aviation: cross sectional surveys." BMJ 320(7237): 745-749.

  • OBJECTIVES: To survey operating theatre and intensive care unit staff about attitudes concerning error, stress, and teamwork and to compare these attitudes with those of airline cockpit crew. DESIGN:: Cross sectional surveys.
  • SETTING:: Urban teaching and non-teaching hospitals in the United States, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Major airlines around the world.
  • PARTICIPANTS:: 1033 doctors, nurses, fellows, and residents working in operating theatres and intensive care units and over 30 000 cockpit crew members (captains, first officers, and second officers).
  • MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:: Perceptions of error, stress, and teamwork.
  • RESULTS:: Pilots were least likely to deny the effects of fatigue on performance (26% v 70% of consultant surgeons and 47% of consultant anaesthetists). Most pilots (97%) and intensive care staff (94%) rejected steep hierarchies (in which senior team members are not open to input from junior members), but only 55% of consultant surgeons rejected such hierarchies. High levels of teamwork with consultant surgeons were reported by 73% of surgical residents, 64% of consultant surgeons, 39% of anaesthesia consultants, 28% of surgical nurses, 25% of anaesthetic nurses, and 10% of anaesthetic residents. Only a third of staff reported that errors are handled appropriately at their hospital. A third of intensive care staff did not acknowledge that they make errors. Over half of intensive care staff reported that they find it difficult to discuss mistakes.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Medical staff reported that error is important but difficult to discuss and not handled well in their hospital. Barriers to discussing error are more important since medical staff seem to deny the effect of stress and fatigue on performance. Further problems include differing perceptions of teamwork among team members and reluctance of senior theatre staff to accept input from junior members.

Thomas, E. J., J. B. Sexton, et al. (2003). "Discrepant attitudes about teamwork among critical care nurses and physicians." Crit Care Med. 31(3): 956-959.

  • OBJECTIVE: To measure and compare critical care physicians' and nurses' attitudes about teamwork.
  • DESIGN: Cross-sectional surveys.
  • SETTING: Eight nonsurgical intensive care units in two teaching and four nonteaching hospitals in the Houston, TX, metropolitan area.
  • SUBJECTS: Physicians and nurses who worked in the intensive care units.
  • MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Three hundred twenty subjects (90 physicians and 230 nurses) responded to the survey. The response rate was 58% (40% for physicians and 71% for nurses). Only 33% of nurses rated the quality of collaboration and communication with the physicians as high or very high. In contrast, 73% of physicians rated collaboration and communication with nurses as high or very high. By using factor analysis, we developed a seven-item teamwork scale. Multivariate analysis of variance of the items yielded an omnibus ( [7, 163] = 8.37; p <.001), indicating that physicians and nurses perceive their teamwork climate differently. Analysis of individual items revealed that relative to physicians, nurses reported that it is difficult to speak up, disagreements are not appropriately resolved, more input into decision making is needed, and nurse input is not well received.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Critical care physicians and nurses have discrepant attitudes about the teamwork they experience with each other. As evidenced by individual item content, this discrepancy includes suboptimal conflict resolution and interpersonal communication skills. These findings may be the result of the differences in status/authority, responsibilities, gender, training, and nursing and physician cultures
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