Patient Safety and Health Care Management: Volume 7


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

The constitution of the United States refers to the obligation of the government to safeguard the people's health and welfare. For those engaged in patient care, the health and safety of the patient is uppermost, but the safety of the patient is influenced by a multitude of factors. These factors include not only the actions of the providers of care and the patient's environment, but also the patient's own actions.

The needs for health system change and improved patient safety have been pointed out by policymakers, researchers, and managers for several decades. Patient safety is now widely accepted as being fundamental to all aspects of health care. The question motivating this special volume on patient safety is: How can the increased emphasis on patient safety among health care managers be more effectively translated into better policy and reduced clinical risk? The 12 contributions in this volume are divided into four sections: (1) theoretical perspectives on managing patient safety; (2) top management perspectives on patient safety; (3) health information technology (HIT) perspectives on patient safety; and (4) organizational behavior and change perspectives on patient safety. Patient safety is a topic that provides a fertile niche for management researchers to test existing theories and develop new ones. For example, the patient safety goals of reducing medical errors while maximizing health outcomes draws upon the tenets of evidence-based medicine (EBM), as well as the managerial theories of human relations, organizational culture, organizational development, organizational learning, organizational structure, quality improvement, and systems thinking. Indeed, these and other managerial theories are drawn upon and applied in different ways by the various contributors. Overall, the authors of this volume demonstrate that the future of patient safety for health care management requires health care professionals and managers who can successfully engage in multi-faceted projects that are socially and technically complex.

A fundamental assumption by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is that evidence-based medicine (EBM) improves the effectiveness of medical diagnosis and treatment and, thus, the safety of patients. However, EBM remains controversial, especially its links to patient safety. This chapter addresses three research questions: (1) How does EBM contribute to patient safety? (2) How and why is EBM limited in improving patient safety? and (3) How can patient safety be maximized, given the limitations of EBM? Currently, EMB contributes to patient safety both by educating clinicians on the value and use of empirical evidence for medical practice and via large-scale initiatives to improve care processes. Attempts to apply EBM to individual patient care are limited, in part, because EMB relies on biostatisical and epidemiological reasoning to assess whether a screening, diagnostic, or treatment process produces desired health outcomes for a general population. Health care processes that are most amenable to EBM are those that can be standardized or routinized; non-routine processes, such as diagnosing and treating a person with both acute and chronic co-morbidities, are cases where EBM has limited applicability. To improve patient safety, health care organizations should not rely solely on EBM, but also recognize the need to foster mindfulness within the medical professions and develop patient-centric organizational systems and cultures.

Recent reports by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) signal a substantial yet unrealized deficit in patient safety innovation and improvement. With the aim of reducing this dilemma, we provide an introductory account of clinical error resulting from poorly designed systems by reviewing the relevant health care, management, psychology, and organizational accident sciences literature. First, we discuss the concept of health care error and describe two approaches to analyze error proliferation and causation. Next, by applying transdisciplinary evidence and knowledge to health care, we detail the attributes fundamental to constructing safer health care systems as embedded components within the complex adaptive environment. Then, the Health Care Error Proliferation Model explains the sequence of events typically leading to adverse outcomes, emphasizing the role that organizational and external cultures contribute to error identification, prevention, mitigation, and defense construction. Subsequently, we discuss the critical contribution health care leaders can make to address error as they strive to position their institution as a high reliability organization (HRO). Finally, we conclude that the future of patient safety depends on health care leaders adopting a system philosophy of error management, investigation, mitigation, and prevention. This change is accomplished when leaders apply the basic organizational accident and health care safety principles within their respective organizations.

Hospital nurse managers are in the middle. Their supervisors expect that they will monitor and discipline nurses who commit errors, while also asking them to create a culture that fosters reporting of errors. Their staff nurses expect the managers to support them after errors occur. Drawing on interviews with 20 nurse managers from three tertiary care hospitals, the study identifies key exemplars that illustrate how managers monitor nursing errors. The exemplars examine how nurse managers: (1) sent mixed messages to staff nurses about incident reporting, (2) kept two sets of books for recording errors, and (3) developed routines for classifying potentially harmful errors into non-reportable categories. These exemplars highlight two tensions: the application of bureaucratic rule-based standards to professional tasks, and maintaining accountability for errors while also learning from them. We discuss how these fundamental tensions influence organizational learning and suggest theoretical and practical research questions and a conceptual framework.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has broadened their campaign focus to include protecting hospital patients from five million incidents of medical harm through 2008. A critical component of this campaign is the engagement of governance in the process, noting evidence of better patient outcomes for hospitals with governing boards that spend at least 25% of their time on quality and safety. St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC), a 384-bed hospital in Southeast Los Angeles serving a high number of uninsured and underinsured patients and a population characterized by significant poverty, has initiated through a top-down approach, an aggressive plan to improve the care at its facilities through a call to action by its board of directors. In this article innovative methods are shared, tools are provided, and the initial positive results achieved are reported which show how a cultural change is occurring regarding quality and patient safety (QPS) at this hospital's organizational and delivery system level.

The voluntary hospital trustee has traditionally seen issues of medical care, including those of patient safety, as falling within the delegated sphere of the medical staff. This customary distancing of the trustee from direct involvement in patient safety issues is now challenged by unprecedented scrutiny of hospital safety results through voluntary disclosure or mandatory public reporting. This new climate, fostered by the Institute of Medicine's To Err is Human and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 100,000 Lives campaign, has complicated the role of the trustee in satisfying the traditional “prudent person” test for meeting fiduciary obligation as the trustee's breadth of involvement expands. Viewed theoretically, Mintzberg models the hospital as a case of a professional bureaucracy, in which the professional staff is responsible for standard setting and regulation. This traditional role of the professional staff is potentially assumed by others lacking technical background. Trustees are now asked to examine reports identifying physician compliance in attaining safety standards without education in the practice supporting those standards. Physician board members, whose numbers have increased in the past decade, are often sought to take the lead on interpretation of patient safety standards and results. The very public nature of patient safety reporting and its reflection on the reputation of the organization for which the trustee is ultimately accountable create a new level of tension and workload that challenges the dominant voluntary model of trusteeship in the United States health system.

Research suggests that improving hospital work environments and solving the nursing shortage are critical to improving patient care. The Houston–Galveston region created an aggressive approach to this issue by forming an unusual coalition of business, university, and hospital leaders and using a quality improvement approach. Four years later, the project has achieved over 40% participation among hospitals in the 13-county region and includes 50 hospitals employing approximately 15,000 registered nurses. The data that have been collected by this collaborative to date suggests that hospitals are taking action to improve outcomes by modifying their key initiatives to address the attributed causes of poor work environments. From 2004 to 2005, executives of top performing hospitals increasingly attributed successful work environment outcomes to an emphasis on management development and executive-driven initiatives, de-emphasizing specific employee behavior, process, and outcome-based initiatives.

This mixed methods multiple case study examines the knowledge, understanding, and awareness of 25 health board/facility oversight managers and 20 health professional association directors about privacy and security issues important to achieving health information exchange (HIE) in the state of Nebraska. Within case analyses revealed that health board/facility oversight managers were unaware of key elements of the federal agenda; their concerns about privacy encompassed broad definitions both of what constituted a “health record” and “regulations centeredness.” Alternatively, health professional association leaders were keenly aware of national initiatives. Despite concerns about HIE, they supported information exchange believing that patient care quality and safety would improve. Cross-case analyses revealed a perceptual disconnect between board/facility oversight managers and professional association leaders; however, both favored HIE. Understanding state-level stakeholder perceptions helps us further understand our progress toward achieving the national health information interoperability goal. There is an ongoing need to assure adequate patient privacy protection. Licensure and facility boards at the state level are likely to have a major role in the assurance of patient protections through facility oversight and provider behavior. The need for these boards to take an active role in oversight of patient rights and protections is imminent. Similarly, professional associations are the major vehicles for post-graduate education of practicing health professionals. Their engagement is essential to maintaining health professions knowledge. States will need to understand and engage both of these key stakeholders to make substantial progress in moving the HIE agenda forward.

Results of a previous study showed that use of health information technology (HIT) significantly reduced potential medication prescribing errors. However, the results also revealed a less than 100% rate of HIT adoption by primary care physicians. The current study reports on personal interviews with participating physicians that explored the barriers they faced when attempting to fully adopt a particular HIT. Content analysis of qualitative interviews revealed three barrier themes: time, technology, and environment. Interviews also revealed two other areas of concern; specifically, the compatibility of the HIT with the physician's patient mix and the physician's own attitude toward the use of HIT. A theoretical model of technology acceptance and use is used to discuss and further explain the data derived from the physician interviews. With a better understanding of these issues, health care administrators can develop successful strategies for adoption of HIT across their health care organizations.

Increased attention to improve patient safety in healthcare has challenged healthcare managers to consider innovative approaches to meet this need. Organizational development (OD) programs have been used in both health services and other industries to address organizational training and development requirements, and can provide focused, timely, and effective education and training to a broad spectrum of program participants. In healthcare organizations, OD programs can serve an important institutional function by providing a framework through which patient safety can be emphasized as an organizational priority, and patient safety training can be delivered as part of OD efforts. In addition, organizations committed to creating a patient-focused safety culture can use OD initiatives strategically to support organizational culture change efforts. This chapter describes different approaches to including patient safety in an OD framework, drawing from both management theory and practice. Findings from three extensive qualitative studies of leadership development and corporate universities in healthcare provide specific examples of how healthcare organizations discuss patient safety improvement using this alternative approach. Considering the concepts and findings described in this chapter can help healthcare organizations make strides toward positive changes in organizational culture that will promote patient safety on the organizational agenda.

When responsibility for an individual patient is transferred within or between groups of medical professionals, a “handoff” occurs so that patient-specific medical information can be provided to the medical professional(s) assuming responsibility for that patient. Providing an appropriate summary supports safe, high-quality, effective medical care; inadequate or incorrect information may create risk for the patient. A handoff approach was developed to facilitate this process, using the mnemonic “S*T*A*R*T” (S: situation; T: therapies; A: anticipated course; R: reconciliation; T: transfer). Surveys of handoffs occurring before and after introduction of the S*T*A*R*T system document areas with potential for process improvement.

This chapter describes the efforts of a team of health care workers to make a sub-acute health care facility (SCF) serving profoundly damaged children into a high reliability organization (HRO). To obtain this goal, the health care team implemented change in four behavioral areas: (1) risk awareness and acknowledgment; (2) defining care; (3) how to think and make decisions; and (4) information flow. The team focused on five reliability enhancement issues that emerged from previous research on banking institutions: (1) process auditing; (2) the reward system; (3) quality degradation; (4) risk awareness and acknowledgment; and (5) command and control. These HRO processes emerged from the change effort. Three additional HRO processes also emerged: high trust, and building a high reliability culture based on values and on beliefs. This case demonstrates that HRO processes can reduce costs, improve safety, and aid in developing new markets. Other experiences in implementing high reliability processes show that each organization must tailor make processes to its own situation (e.g. BP, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazards Board, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Navy Aviation Program, and Kaiser Permanente Health Care System). Just as in the flexibility called for in organizing for high reliability operations, flexibility is called for in deciding which HRO processes work in specific situations.

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Advances in Health Care Management
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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