A failure in the medication delivery system-how disclosure and systems investigation improve patient safety

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of healthcare risk management


A recent medication error at Vanderbilt University Medical Center contributed to the death of a patient. The ensuing criminal indictment of the administering nurse has shaken the medical community. This has led to clinical staff questioning whether they can disclose patient safety incidents without fear of criminal prosecution. However, because of the publicity of this case, hospitals can benefit from the lessons learned and mitigate the risk of this and similar events at their facilities. To uncover the most impactful and relevant safety recommendations, the Vanderbilt case is examined from a systems investigation perspective using the available public information gathered from media reports, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report, and Vanderbilt's corrective action plan submitted to CMS. We present an example of how hospitals can benefit from disclosure: Henry Ford Health used the Vanderbilt case study as part of its medication safety continuous improvement initiatives, which are underpinned by available medication safety recommendations from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Using this experience and the lessons learned from the Vanderbilt case, a proactive action plan is presented for hospitals nationwide to prevent the recurrence of this medication error. Without disclosure, these analyses and safety recommendations would not have been possible.

PubMed ID



ePub ahead of print