Objectives: To review and summarize the evidence for selected patient safety practices (PSPs) and factors important to their successful implementation and adoption.
Data sources: Searches of computerized databases for articles in peer-reviewed publications and in the gray literature.
Methods: The full project team took part in some or all of the following six-step report process:
- Development of conceptual framework.
- Identification, selection, and prioritization of harm area topics.
- Identification, selection, and prioritization of patient safety practices.
- Literature searches.
- Review of the evidence.
- Report development.
To conduct the literature searches, the project team identified PSP-specific search terms and ran them for every PSP in the MEDLINE and CINHAL databases, filtering for English publications only between 2008 and 2018. Across the PSPs examined, there was wide variation in the rigor of studies included in the evidence reviews. Individual authors decided the minimum threshold of quality for including specific studies given the state of the field for each PSP. We aimed to apply the criteria drawn from the Evidence-based Practice Center “Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews” on strength of evidence derived from GRADE. To the extent possible, authors for each review indicated the strength of evidence by practice, outcome, and/or setting.
Results: The five major threats to safety that were addressed include medication management issues, healthcare-associated infections, nursing sensitive events, procedural events, and diagnostic errors; and the report covers 47 PSPs in 17 specific harm areas. The PSPs were chosen for inclusion in the report based on the high-impact harms they address and interest in the status of their appropriateness for use. While the team was going through the process of selecting PSPs to address specific harm areas, it became evident that several cross-cutting contextual factors should also be reviewed. These cross-cutting practices are improving safety culture; teamwork and team training; clinical decision support; person and family engagement; cultural and linguistic competency; staff education and training; and data monitoring, audit, and feedback.
Conclusions: The amount of published research in patient safety has exponentially grown since the last AHRQ “Making Health Care Safer” report was published in 2013, albeit with publications varying in quality. PSPs that are more well-established are now being investigated in light of emerging harms, such as the applicability of infection-prevention-related PSPs to address the threat from multidrug-resistant organisms. Similarly, emerging PSPs are being investigated for use to address well-established harms, such as the use of clinical decision support to reduce diagnostic errors. It is clear that a wide range of factors impact the effectiveness of PSPs with respect to their ability to prevent harm.