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PATIENT SAFETY

Diagnostic errors and test results top ECRI Institute’s patient safety list

Diagnostic errors and improper management of test results in electronic health records (EHRs) were recently named by ECRI Institute as among the most serious patient safety challenges facing healthcare leaders in 2019. Released in conjunction with National Patient Safety Awareness week, ECRI’s Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for 2019 raises the profile of safety issues that pose risks to patients and healthcare providers.

“Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the country,” says Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO, ECRI Institute. “This guidance can help healthcare leaders and clinicians save lives.”

Diagnostic errors and managing test results remain in the top spot two years in a row. While many healthcare providers rely on EHRs to help with clinical decision support and tracking test results, technology is just one tool in the diagnostic process, according to William Marella, executive director of operations and analytics, ECRI Institute PSO.

“We have to recognize the limits of current technology and ensure that we have processes in place to close the loop on diagnostic tests,” says Marella. “This safety issue cuts across acute and ambulatory settings, requiring teamwork across the health system.”

ECRI Institute’s 2019 list of concerns addresses systemic issues facing health systems, such as behavioral health concerns, clinician burnout, and skills development. Mobile health technology, number four on the list, opens up a world of opportunities by transporting healthcare to the home, but also presents potential risks.

The report also highlights ongoing clinical issues with infections from peripheral IV lines, sepsis, and anti-microbial stewardship. In the outpatient setting, at least 30% of antibiotic use is unnecessary.

ECRI’s list of patient safety concerns does not necessarily represent the issues that occur most frequently or are most severe. It identifies new risks, how existing concerns may be changing because of new technology or care delivery models, and persistent issues that need renewed attention or that might have additional solutions.

Topics are selected each year by a broad multi-disciplinary team of patient safety analysts, infection preventionists, and clinicians at ECRI Institute. They identify safety concerns based on member inquiries, root cause analyses, and adverse events submitted to ECRI’s Patient Safety Organization (PSO). ECRI Institute PSO has received more than 2.7 million event reports and reviewed hundreds of root-cause analyses since 2009.

Healthcare organizations can use ECRI Institute’s 2019 Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for Healthcare Organizations to identify priorities and create corrective action plans. The Executive Brief is available for free on ECRI’s public website. The comprehensive report, available to ECRI Institute members, includes many actionable resources.


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