Author(s): Fastman BR, Kaplan HS
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Abstract The phrase "patient safety" represents freedom from accidental or preventable harm due to events occurring in the healthcare setting. Practitioners aim to reduce, if not prevent, medical errors and adverse outcomes. Yet studies performed from many perspectives show that medical error constitutes a serious worldwide problem. Transfusion medicine, with its interdisciplinary intricacies and the danger of fatal outcomes, serves as an exemplar of lessons learned. Opportunity for error in complex systems is vast, and although errors are traditionally blamed on humans, they are often set up by preexisting factors. Transfusion has inherent hazards such as clinical vulnerabilities (eg, contracting an infectious agent or experiencing a transfusion reaction), but there also exists the possibility of hazards associated with process errors. Sample collection errors, or preanalytic errors, may occur when samples are drawn from donors during blood donation, as well as when drawn from patients prior to transfusion-related testing, and account for approximately one-third of events in transfusion. Errors in the analytic phase of the transfusion chain, slips and errors in the laboratory, comprise close to one-third of patient safety-related transfusion events. As many as 40\% of mistransfusions are due to errors in the postanalytic phase: often failures in the final check of the right blood and the right patient at the bedside. Bar-code labels, radiofrequency identification tags, and even palm vein-scanning technology are increasingly being utilized in patient identification. The last phase of transfusion, careful monitoring of the recipient for adverse signs or symptoms, when performed diligently can help prevent or manage a potentially fatal reaction caused by an earlier process error or an unavoidable physiologic condition. Ways in which we can and do deal with potential hazards of transfusion are discussed, including a method of hazard reduction termed inherently safer design. This approach aims to lessen risk, with elimination of a hazard or the reduction of its occurrence as primary. In blood transfusion, elimination and marked reduction of some hazards has been employed to good effect. However, there is still a heavy reliance on procedural methods in the essentially manual steps constituting the phases of the transfusion chain. Some hospitals have created a new role of transfusion safety officer to assist in the effort of monitoring, identifying, and resolving conditions that may lessen safety. © 2011 Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
This article was published in Mt Sinai J Med
and referenced in Journal of Blood Disorders & Transfusion