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How the healthcare system may cause harm – Part IV

For the most part, the care that patients receive in hospitals and medical centers both in New York City and throughout the rest of the U.S. is top notch, delivered by skilled caregivers who understand the most up-to-date medical practices. Yet even the best clinicians may not be able to provide adequate care if they do not have all of the information regarding a patient’s case. In fact, poor communication between healthcare providers ranks as one of the most common causes of medical errors.

According to information shared by the AARP Bulletin, important information lost through a lack of communication amongst clinicians can include:

  •          What medications a patient is receiving and their respective dosage strengths.
  •          Any diagnostic tests that have already been done.
  •          What protocols to follow should a patient’s health deteriorate.

Oftentimes, errors in communication between providers occur during shift changeovers. The results of a recent study shared by Kaiser Health News pinpointed one potential problem that commonly occurs during transitions of care: the portfolio effect. This highlights the natural human tendency to devote the most time and attention to those topics found at the top itemized lists. When it comes to healthcare, that means the patients first discussed by providers during shift changeovers tend to receive the most attention by the oncoming staff. The trouble with this that it may take the emphasis away from treating patients based on their level of severity.

The study cited found this portfolio effect to be very common in care transitions, with providers having limited time to discuss the cases of those found at the end of their patient lists. That omission of information could potentially increase the risk of someone receiving incorrect care, or being largely ignored by a clinical staff altogether. 

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