Defining the patient safety trajectory of breast cancer at a National Cancer Centre
University College Cork
Introduction: One in seven Irish women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. A well-researched management pathway commences thereafter, involving multiple treatment modalities and specialities. In contrast, there is sparse research examining the patient safety trajectory that mirrors this clinical journey. Learnings from previous events can illuminate this otherwise unknown patient safety trajectory of those with breast cancer. Furthermore, there is little known of patients’ and doctors’ views and experiences of this patient safety trajectory. Aims: This study aimed to characterise patient safety incidents that have occurred during breast cancer care, their contributory and preventative factors, outcome and impact. Using this data, patient safety trajectories were created. In addition, this paper aimed to explore the patient safety views and concerns of patients receiving and doctors providing breast cancer care. Methods: Anonymous, quantitative patient and doctor questionnaires were used. In addition, data related to medical negligence claims involving breast cancer and handled by the State Claims Agency was analysed. Pearson chi-squared test and Fisher’s exact test were utilised for categorical data. The median degrees of harm were used to construct trajectories. Results: 83 patient safety incidents were included (61 medical errors and 22 medical negligence claims). Failure or delay to correctly diagnose was the most commonly implicated adverse event type overall (n=32/83, 38.6%) and was involved in a higher proportion of medical negligence claims than medical errors (p=0.01). Forty percent of events occurred in the outpatient department (n=33/83) and 31% of events took place before a patient’s formal breast cancer diagnosis (n=26/83). Inadequate communication was the most common contributory factor. Events during neoadjuvant chemotherapy and after discharge from follow-up had the highest median degree of harm of 4 (Q1-Q3:3.5-4.5 and Q1-Q3:4.0-4.5). More doctors felt patient safety has worsened in the past five years compared to patients (41.4% vs 13.0%) (p<0.001). Twice as many doctors reported that there were inadequate measures in place to prevent medical error compared to patients (54.3% vs 27.2%) (p<0.001). Conclusion: Patient safety incidents during breast cancer care occur in a variety of settings and during all clinical stages but often occur before diagnosis and involve inadequate communication. Doctors who provide breast cancer care have a more pessimistic outlook on patient safety compared to patients and are more concerned about medical error in breast cancer care. Addressing and acting on the experiences and concerns of those involved in breast cancer care is vital to improve patient safety trajectories for breast cancer patients.
Patient safety , Breast cancer
Forrest, C. 2023. Defining the patient safety trajectory of breast cancer at a National Cancer Centre. MRes Thesis, University College Cork.