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Communication problems may contribute to medical errors

 Rhode Island residents naturally want to understand the scary and potentially dangerous world of medical malpractice. Nobody wants to become the victim of a medical error or to have their family member suffer from a preventable mistake made by a health care provider. A study led by Boston Children’s Hospital took a look at how communication between physicians may impact errors. The results were quite interesting.

Stanford Medicine reports that a new procedure implemented during the handoff from one physician to another was put in place at nine different hospitals. The goal was to see if a change in the transmission of information between shift changes would create any change in the number of errors made. Over the course of the duration of the study, the number of medical errors identified as preventable dropped by 30 percent. There was no change to the number of errors identified as unpreventable which further supported the impact of communication on the preventable errors.

CBS News indicates that 11,000 patients were involved in the study. A communication procedure was used that required physicians to complete five steps when completing a shift with the physicians who were taking over. The first two steps were to review the patient’s condition and status. Next up was to discuss what steps should be taken and any backup plans in the event of a problem.

The final step in the communication handoff required physicians asking questions to ensure that all information was properly understood and remembered. Documentation with electronic systems supported the in-person discussions.


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