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Study shows hospital error reduction when staff communication improved

Miscommunication is a major cause of hospital mistakes across the country. Studies show that improving communication can prevent errors.

Communication is vital in any industry that can result in injuries, from construction to aviation. The medical field is no exception; however, health care professionals often are not held accountable for standardized communication procedures that can reduce mistakes in medical facilities. The result, states Modern Healthcare, is a high number of errors that can be attributed to poor communication. In fact, up to 70 percent of hospital mistakes may be caused by communication problems.

When doctors, nurses and supportive staff fail to communicate a patient's needs and treatment plan with each other, the results can be grave. Potential mistakes may include the following:

• Medication errors if a nurse is not informed of the drugs the patient took during the previous shift

• Mistakes with a prescription when information is not relayed properly to a pharmacist

• Discrepancies in treatment plans, procedures or surgeries

• Declining standard of care if a patient is sent to another facility without adequate communication between doctors

The common handoff procedure is one of the most common ways to make a communication mistake and cause a patient to be seriously injured. Patient handoff is what occurs when doctors and nurses change shifts or when the patient is transferred to a different ward or hospital.

Handoff checklists reduced hospital mistakes

In a study from the University of California, San Francisco, as well as eight additional institutions, doctors and nurses found that serious mistakes could be averted by improving communication with each other. According to KQED News, improving communication could cause harmful medical errors to drop by 30 percent. This is significant, since the potential for communication mistakes may lead to 1,000 deaths every day.

A group of emergency room doctors concurs. American Medical News reported that communication was greatly improved when these doctors developed a checklist to use during handoffs that included safety concern, diagnoses, pending items and other issues. They then encouraged medical staff to discuss care plans with the patient and relay the information to nurses and other care staff. When Boston Children's Hospital standardized handoff procedures, staff saw a 50 percent reduction in harmful patient errors and a 40 percent drop in medical mistakes overall.

If handoff procedures and other issues of care are standardized nationwide, patient lives may be saved. Until then, families affected by hospital errors may speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney to discuss their options.

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