Root Cause Analysis Reports Help Identify Common Factors In Delayed Diagnosis And Treatment Of Outpatients
Author: Traber Davis Giardina, Beth J. King, Aartee P. Ignaczak, Douglas E. Paull, Laura Hoeksema, Peter D. Mills, Julia Neily, Robin R. Hemphill, Hardeep Singh
Delays in diagnosis and treatment are widely considered to be threats to outpatient safety. However, few studies have identified and described what factors contribute to delays that might result in patient harm in the outpatient setting. We analyzed 111 root cause analysis reports that investigated such delays and were submitted to the Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety in the period 2005–12. The most common contributing factors noted in the reports included coordination problems resulting from inadequate follow-up planning, delayed scheduling for unspecified reasons, inadequate tracking of test results, and the absence of a system to track patients in need of short-term follow-up. Other contributing factors were team-level decision-making problems resulting from miscommunication of urgency between providers and providers’ lack of awareness of or knowledge about a patient’s situation; and communication failures among providers, patients, and other health care team members. Our findings suggest that to support care goals in the Affordable Care Act and the National Quality Strategy, even relatively sophisticated electronic health record systems will require enhancements. At the same time, policy initiatives should support programs to implement, and perhaps reward the use of, more rigorous interprofessional teamwork principles to improve outpatient communication and coordination.