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JAMA study points to patient safety risks outside hospital walls
Date:6/14/2011

w toward improving the safety record of outpatient care.

In contrast to the large, centralized nature of the hospital setting, outpatient care is prone to fragmentation. "Our findings may reflect a lack of coordination within and between doctors' offices," Dr. Bishop says. "For example, a primary care physician may refer a patient to a specialist -- but the actual appointment may never happen. A cardiologist may order a scan, unaware that it was already performed during a patient's hospital stay.

"The problems associated with outpatient safety may not be easy to fix, but the adoption of electronic health records is already improving communication between doctors," says Dr. Bishop.

"Patient safety is likely to improve markedly as more and more doctors' offices change the way their records are kept, updated and accessed."

In addition to diagnostic errors and adverse drug interactions, surgical errors are occurring with greater frequency in the outpatient setting. Increasingly, surgical procedures are taking place in doctors' offices, a trend driven in part by advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques that do not require a hospital stay.

As an internist who works in an outpatient setting herself, Dr. Bishop has witnessed the relative growth of outpatient compared to inpatient care: "We're treating more patients than ever, plus we're seeing sicker patients than we used to."

Implicit in the shift toward outpatient care is a commensurate challenge to reduce errors and ensure that patients benefit from the advanced treatments that are now widely available at private physician offices across the country. "Improving the safety of outpatient care will be difficult," says Dr. Lawrence Casalino, senior author of the study and chief of the Division of Outcomes and Effectiveness Research in the Department of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. "But it is critical to the health of our patients that physici
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Contact: Andrew Klein
ank2017@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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