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Physicians Try New Handoff System to Avoid Medical Errors

Medical error continues to be a problem to American patients across the country.

Medical errors that, too often, are absolutely preventable, continue to cause thousands of injuries that range from mild to severe and even deadly each year. A study that has been authored by physicians at the Boston Children’s Hospital shows that the implementation of a new standardized communication system made the patient handoffs closer to the error-proof goal they want to achieve.

The adoption of this system showed that the staff experienced a reduced number of medical error events, which could indicate that communication is one of the main factors behind medical error incidents. The physicians who carried out the study came up with a three-part handoff system that makes the communication and handoff training follow a standardized pattern. It also involves the use of a verbal mnemonic and a completely new approach to the handoff structure by involving the team. Physicians observed 642 patients before the implementation of the system and 613 after the new procedures were adopted. According to the study, 84 physicians participated.

The handoff structure, which was primarily individual, turned into a team effort. According to the system, more of the people involved became directly responsible for the exchange of information concerning the patients. Fewer omissions concerning the patient’s state or treatment were observed with the implementation of the system. According to the results of the study, out of every 100 patients, 33.8 were the victims of medical errors before the system was implemented. After the system was adopted, 18.3 out of 100 patients were affected by medical error.

According to the study, physicians spent a greater percentage of time at a patient’s bedside once the new system was implemented, creating more opportunities for the doctor to spend more time examining and explaining the treatment to the patient. The study showed that since miscommunication usually leads to serious medical errors, systems that change the way the communication is carried out and how information regarding the patient and the treatment is exchanged should be implemented to make medical errors less frequent.

Hopefully, more physicians and other hospital administrative bodies will understand the importance of implementing better handoff systems in order to ensure that preventable errors are not committed and patients are safe from being exposed to the risks associated with illnesses or adverse events they could experience otherwise.

The full article and more details concerning this study can be found here.