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Tying transitions of care to doctor errors

Every year, countless people in Providence County and throughout the rest of the U.S. suffer from mistakes made by doctors, surgeons, and other health care providers. While it should be remembered that health care providers are only human, many of these errors are the result of simple inaction or negligence. A report released by the Office of the Inspector General in 2010 showed that of the adverse events included in their study, 44 percent were preventable.

So what leads to this high occurrence of preventable doctor errors? In a great deal of these cases, it’s a breakdown in communication between providers. This has been shown to happen most during the transition of care from one doctor to another. These transitions can occur when a patient is referred to another provider, during a hospital stay, or at the time a patient is discharged from one facility to another.

A number of different factors can contribute to a breakdown of communication during a patient handoff. These can include differing opinions or expectations between physicians, or a lack of time to effectively communicate every aspect of patient’s condition in an emergency situation. Yet many point to a lack of standardized procedures in place for transitioning patient care as the primary reason why these types of errors occur.

Studies of these standardized protocols have shown that they are effective in preventing mistakes. Health IT Analytics recently shared the results of a New England Journal of Medicine Study that showed a 30 percent decrease in medical errors from hospitals that implemented the “I-PASS” system. I-PASS stands for

  •          Illness severity
  •          Patient summary
  •          Action list
  •          Situational awareness
  •          Synthesis by receiver

Following this communication protocol helps ensure that receiving doctors and hospitalists are well aware of a patient’s current situation and thus better prepared to combat potential complications.   

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Providence Personal Injury Office

199 North Main Street
Providence, RI 02903

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