12-Nov-14 2:00 PM  CST

Communication Key in Preventing Medical Errors

Communication within any field is understandable one of the key elements of providing a safe, superior service experience to customers, and more so in the healthcare field, patients. A study recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine only continues to exemplify this fact.

            Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., a very sobering statistic to say the very least.  In fact, statistics state that more than 440, 000 people are killed in the U.S. each year do to an act associated with a medical error. A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that when health care workers communicated as part of a regular shift change the incident of error was reduced by as much as 30%.

            Nine pediatric hospitals were studied across the United States, and found that 23% fewer incidences of medical error where reported when staff communicated with one another during the “hand off” period, essentially, the time when one shift is leaving for the day, and another is taking over. Boston’s Children’s Hospital developed a program called I-PASS where the physician is not only mandated to write an order, but also verbally read the order back to nursing or pharmacy staff in order to verify the order is correct and aptly understood by those involved.

            The New England Journal of Medicine article maintains that 80% of all medical errors happen as a result of miscommunication, and shift work changes seem to have the greatest affect. After I-PASS was instituted at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, medical errors dropped from 24 -18.8 % per 100 admissions.

            The I-PASS system, which is be adopted by hospital systems across the U.S. was formed as a way to improve the communication between, nursing, pharmacy and physician staff, while providing the family and the patient with a error free treatment experience.





“Better Hand Offs. Better Care.” I-PASS, 2013, http://www.ipasshandoffstudy.com/, referenced, 7.November 2014

Terry, L. “Hospital Medical Errors that Harm Patients, A Leading Cause of Death, Plummet in Study,”11/05/2014, The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/11/hospital_medical_errors_that_h.html, referenced 7. November 2014

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Source: Sandy Andrews  

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