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Qual Saf Health Care. 2010 Jun;19(3):223-8. doi: 10.1136/qshc.2008.029116. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

What happens between visits? Adverse and potential adverse events among a low-income, urban, ambulatory population with diabetes.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, Center for Vulnerable Populations, San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, California 94143-1364, USA.



Little is known about adverse events (AEs) that occur between physician visits for ambulatory chronic disease patients. An automated telephone self-management support programme for a diverse population of diabetes patients was implemented to capture AEs, describe the self-management domains from which they emanate and explore contributing causes.


AEs and potential AEs (PotAEs) were identified among 111 ethnically diverse diabetes patients. An AE is an injury that results from either medical management or patient self-management; a PotAE is an unsafe state likely to lead to an event if it persists without intervention. Medical record reviews were conducted to ascertain which self-management domain was involved with the event and to explore contributing causes.


Among the 111 patients, 86% had at least one event detected over the 9-month observation period. 111 AEs and 153 PotAEs were identified. For all events, medication management was the most common domain (166 events, 63%). Only 20% of events reflected a single contributing cause; in the remaining 80%, a combination of system, clinician and patient factors contributed to their occurrence. Patient actions were implicated in 205 (77%) events, systems issues in 183 (69%) events and inadequate physician-patient communication in 155 (59%) events. Aside from communication, primary care clinician actions contributed to the occurrence of the event in only 16 cases (6%).


Our findings reveal a complex safety ecology, with multiple contributing causes for AEs and PotAEs among ambulatory diabetes patients. Moreover, patients themselves seem to be key drivers of safety and of AEs, suggesting that patient-level self-management support and patient-centred communication are critical to AE prevention.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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