National Survey of Patient Safety Experiences in Hospital Medicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Danielle Carter, Amanda Rosen, Jo R. Applebaum, William N. Southern, Daniel J. Crossman, Rachel C. Shelton, Andrew Auerbach, Jeffrey L. Schnipper, Jason S. Adelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals were caring for increasing numbers of patients with a novel and highly contagious respiratory illness, forcing adaptations in care delivery. The objective of this study was to understand the impact of these adaptations on patient safety in hospital medicine. Methods: The authors conducted a nationwide survey to understand patient safety challenges experienced by hospital medicine clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was distributed to members of the Society of Hospital Medicine via an e-mail listserv. It consisted of closed- and open-ended questions to elicit respondents’ experience in five domains: error reporting and communication, staffing, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and isolation practices, and infrastructure. Quantitative questions were reported as counts and percentages; qualitative responses were coded and analyzed for relevant themes. Results: Of 196 total responses, 167 respondents (85.2%) were attending physicians and 85 (43.8%) practiced at teaching hospitals. Safety concerns commonly identified included nursing shortages (71.0%), limiting patient interactions to conserve PPE (61.9%), and feeling that one was practicing in a more hazardous environment (61.4%). In free-text responses, clinicians described poor outcomes and patient decompensation due to provider and equipment shortages, as well as communication lapses and diagnostic errors resulting from decreased patient contact and the need to follow isolation protocols. Conclusion: Efforts made to accommodate shortages in staff and equipment, adapt to limited PPE, and enforce isolation policies had unintended consequences that affected patient safety and created a more hazardous environment characterized by less efficient care, respiratory decompensations, diagnostic errors, and poor communication with patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-268
Number of pages9
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


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