Contact: Beverly Volpe
Patient Safety Authority PR Representative
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Motor vehicle crash victims more likely to suffer harm in the hospital reports Patient Safety Authority


Harrisburg, PA – October 8, 2021 – Patients who have experienced trauma from a motor vehicle crash are more likely to suffer harm when they go to the hospital in Pennsylvania compared to other patients. That’s according to the Patient Safety Authority (PSA) and the first-of-its-kind analysis of safety events in the hospital involving patients admitted following a motor vehicle crash. The report was published in the September 2021 issue of PATIENT SAFETY.​   

Every hour in Pennsylvania, there are about 14 motor vehicle crashes—with one fatality every 8 hours—according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (2019). More than 200 people are injured in crashes every day, many of whom wind up in the hospital. ​

The problem is escalating because antibiotics are being misused and overused, generating resistance, she explains.

The information, from PSA’s patient safety database, PA-PSRS, is from 2018–2020. “Typically, 3% of reports of patient safety events are classified as serious,” says researcher Elizabeth Kukielka, PharmD, MA, RPh. “However in this study, we found that number more than quadrupled, with more than 13% of reports being classified as serious events.​

“We must be cautious in drawing conclusions about why, as this could have as much to do with the patient’s condition upon arrival at a hospital as it does with the actions of healthcare providers.”​

Crash victims who wind up in the emergency room are often unconscious, physically incapacitated or suffering from confusion, impacting their ability to participate in their own care. “That could lead to communication breakdowns,” says Kukielka.

​​In addition to issues with communication, contributing factors to patient harm include lack of policies or awareness of existing policies, and prioritizing the patient’s condition from the crash over underlying health conditions.

Other topics in this issue of PATIENT SAFETY include:

  • Elder suicide in skilled nursing facilities – In Pennsylvania, people 65 and older are five times more likely to commit suicide than people under 20. Moving to a nursing home can be an especially difficult, high-risk period, so facilities should do a mental health screening, especially learning about the resident's preadmission behavior patterns.
  • Safety trade-offs in home care during COVID-19 - A new study examined home care workers' experience during COVID-19.  Not surprisingly, they often prioritized patient needs over their own, despite the high-risk, low-pay nature of the job. The study reaffirms the need for a focus on improved safety protocols for vulnerable home care patients and workers.
  • ​The impact of COVID-19 on medical device reporting and investigation – While the impact of COVID-19 on patient care is still unfolding, what about its impact on investigating malfunctioning medical devices? A study found that delays were due to travel bans, limited capabilities (e.g. stay-at-home-orders), device contamination concerns, patients' reluctance to visit their doctor and cancellations of elective procedures. The potential consequences: a backlog of uninvestigated devices, lost information over time and lack of post market surveillance leading to adverse events that could have otherwise been prevented.

    Patient Safety is the peer-reviewed journal of the Patient Safety Authority. A scientific publication, Patient Safety humanizes patient harm with stories, opinion pieces, and magazine-quality design. It has a readership of more than 45,000 people in 164 countries. ​


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