Wrong Surgery Performed on Patient (Part 2)

By ThinkReliability Staff

This week, we will continue our discussion of an incident where the wrong surgery was performed on a patient.  Last week, we looked at the timeline of events and a process map of the universal protocol developed to reduce the incidence of surgical errors.  This week, we’ll perform a root cause analysis of the issue.

The specific steps identified that didn’t go well, or weren’t performed, from the process map now become causes on our Cause Map.  Instead of the causes or errors being grouped chronologically or by type (as they are on a fishbone diagram), the causes are grouped by their contribution to the incident.  The Cause Map reads from left to right by asking “Why” questions, beginning with the impacts to the goals.

For example, the patient safety goal was impacted because a patient received the wrong surgery.  Why?  Because the physician performed the wrong type of surgery. Why? Because the surgical site was not clearly marked.  Why? It was marked on the correct arm, though not the correct site (the wrong surgery was performed on the correct hand) and the mark was washed off during patient preparations.  These are both issues identified in the process map that did not follow the universal protocol for surgical preparations.  Both of these issues contributed to the wrong surgery.  In addition, the surgeon was thinking about carpal tunnel surgery, since most of his day, especially just prior to the surgery, had been spent on carpal tunnel surgery, either performing it, or doing pre- or post-surgery briefs with other patients.

Neither the patient nor the operating room staff stopped the surgeon from performing the incorrect surgery.  The patient spoke only Spanish, which may have contributed to her not speaking up.  The operating room staff did not include the nurse that had done the patient assessment, due to a last-minute operating room and staff switch due to other delays.  There was no time-out prior to the procedure, which may have alerted the staff about the wrong  procedure, or may have helped the surgeon switch from thinking about carpal tunnel surgery.

Once the analysis is complete, possible solutions are identified on the Cause Map.  Many of the solutions in this case are to ensure that the universal protocol procedures are being followed.  Had they been followed in this case, the risk of performing the wrong surgery would have been reduced.  Many facilities are already using the universal protocol; however, this case study shouldn’t be ignored by them.  The operating surgeon made this case public and added the following comment: “I hope that none of you ever have to go through what my patient and I went through. I no longer see these protocols as a burden. That is the lesson.”

This surgeon has learned his lesson and will likely be more diligent about following these protocols in the future.  However, there’s no need to wait until you, or your staff members, have their own incidents to learn from.  Use this case study to emphasize the needs for these protocols, in hopes that your facility can reduce its own risk.

(Details of this incident were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.)

Wrong Surgery Performed on Patient (Part 1)

By ThinkReliability Staff

A case study of an incident where the wrong surgery was performed on a patient was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Surprisingly, the study was published by the surgeon who performed the operation, because, in his words, ” hope that none of you ever have to go through what my patient and I went through.”  The surgeon also provided full disclosure to the patient – who requested that he also perform the correct surgery.

We will be analyzing this issue in two parts.  This week, we’ll be looking at the timeline of events and a process map of the universal protocol developed to reduce the incidence of surgical errors.  (The timeline and process map can be seen by clicking “Download PDF” above.)  Next week, we’ll perform a root cause analysis of the issue.

The timeline of events shows a harried day where the surgeon in question performed a carpal tunnel release surgery with a patient who became upset about the use of anesthetic, then briefed the patient who would later receive the wrong surgery, then performed another carpal tunnel release surgery on a second patient.  Then the first patient became very agitated, resulting in an emotional conversation for the surgeon.  Delays resulted in a change of operating room and operating staff for the third patient, so the nurse who had performed the pre-procedure assessment was no longer participating in the procedure.

The  procedure was further delayed when the circulating nurse had to leave to find a tourniquet, since there wasn’t one in the operating room.  The surgeon spoke to the patient in Spanish (she did not speak English), which the nurse took as the time-out, so a real surgical time-out did not occur.  As per hospital protocol, the patient’s arm, but not the specific surgical site, was marked, but it washed off while her arm was being prepped for surgery.

It’s easy to see how this sets the scene for mistakes. Unfortunately, these kind of things happen, and so it is important that there are procedures in place to minimize errors.  The procedures here are the universal protocol, which are shown on the PDF.  Additionally, the parts of the process that were not performed, or were performed improperly, are noted in red.

Drug Shortages

By ThinkReliability Staff

Shortages of commonly used medications are beginning to impact patient safety.  The Institute for Safe Medicine  Practices (ISMP)recently asked healthcare workers to participate in a survey regarding drug shortages.  One out of three respondents said that shortages caused medication errors that could have caused harm to patients.  One out of four respondents said mistakes with medication reached patients, and one in five said that patients were harmed by the medication errors.  In addition, patient care has been impacted by the unavailability of some commonly used medications.  There have been reports of patients who woke up during surgery because sedative was being conserved.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to notify them when there are drug shortages that have no alternatives, there are no sanctions if they do not.  Because many of these drugs have alternatives, the manufacturers are not required to notify the FDA, and healthcare providers are oftentimes not aware of shortages until they run out of needed medication, causing last-minute scrambles and potentially leading to medication errors, such as when an alternative drug has a lower dosage than the drug being replaced.  Because healthcare providers are so accustomed to the dose of the replaced drug, medication errors can result amidst the confusion.

The FDA estimates that approximately 40% of the shortages are due to manufacturing problems, including safety issues identified in inspections, 20% of the shortages are due to production delays, and another 20% occur when manufacturers stop making drugs.  Although drug manufacturers will not confirm, it is assumed that as insurance companies start covering fewer and fewer brand names and generic prices continue to undercut brand-name prices, it isn’t profitable to make some medications.  The FDA does not have authority to require manufacturers to make medication.  Also contributing to the shortages are increased demand, and shortages of parts and raw materials required to manufacture the medications.

Trying to address these issues and come up with some solutions to the drug shortages is going to take more work than just identifying the issues.  To that end, groups representing doctors, anesthesiologists, pharmacists and safety advocates have invited the FDA, health experts, supply chain representatives and drug manufacturers to attempt to work through a solution earlier this month.  Hopefully they’re able to come up with some actions that will prevent further deaths and medication errors due to this shortage

Hospital Working Hard to Prevent Recurrence of Medication Errors

By ThinkReliability Staff

Experts believe that most medical errors go unreported, due to a combination of lax reporting laws, strict patient privacy laws, and ambiguous definitions of these medical errors.  However, Seattle Children’s Hospital is making an attempt to be forthright and accountable with not only its mistakes, but its plan for improvements.  Seattle Children’s made the news recently when it published the serious reportable events that had occurred there from 2004-2010, including two deaths resulting from medication errors.

Additionally, a third child died after a medication error in September 2010, but it has not been determined if the medication error contributed to the death and an adult patient was given the wrong medication but recovered at around the same time.

In response to these errors, Seattle Children’s is performing a root cause analysis by independent experts to determine the causes.  In the meantime, Seattle Children’s is making specific process improvements, such as allowing only pharmacists and anesthesiologists to administer calcium chloride (an overdose of which led to one of the deaths), as well as general training and reminders for staff.  The hospital held a patient safety day on Saturday, October 30th, 2010, where over 550 staff members participated in training and simulations designed to improve patient safety, with a focus on medication safety.

Although the root cause analysis of the various medication errors has not been completed, Seattle Children’s has identified some specific causes that may contribute to medication errors and is launching improvements to try and reduce the impact of these causes.  For example, interruptions to nurses when they are in the process of ordering, preparing or administering medications can lead to medication errors.  During the training, the staff discussed the types of interruptions that occur and what can be done to reduce them.

Medication errors are estimated to kill 1.5 million people per year, so Seattle Children’s is not the only medical facility that will find itself reeling after the deaths of several patients.  These other facilities should take Seattle Children’s lead and begin a serious attempt to reduce these errors, and deaths.

Want to learn more?  See our webpage about medication errors in medical facilities or watch the video.