Communication Breakdowns: Why?

Side Note: We here at often like to talk about the importance of doctor-patient communication and how communicating well with patients not only enhances the doctor-patient relationship, but it also leads to higher patient satisfaction which can often limit the chances of a med mal lawsuit. Another significant thing physicians can do to limit their med mal exposure is to reduce their number of medical errors and put in place protocols to help reduce medical errors. A recent two-part, large study of operating room and critical care nurses, however, reveals that having mechanisms such as check-lists and hand-off protocols are not fool-proof ways to reduce errors. Despite having these things in place, errors can still occur. The study reveals why and its findings can easily apply to physician practices.

Of the 2,383 nurses surveyed, 85% of them said that a measure put in place, like a check-list or hand-off protocol, helped to prevent an error that could have harmed a patient. However, 58% of the nurses said that at some point they felt “either unsafe to speak up or they were unable to get others to listen.” In a separate survey, three reasons as to why these communication breakdowns occurred were identified and investigated. They involved either: incompetent individuals, individuals who took dangerous shortcuts or disrespectful individuals. Understandably, nurse managers most frequently addressed individuals accused of taking dangerous shortcuts. However, only 41% of the 832 nurse managers included in the survey said that they tried to speak to an individual who was thought to be taking a dangerous shortcut. It is logical that this was the most often addressed problem, because it is the easiest to objectively identify. Often, it is just a protocol that the supervisor must address. The other two kinds of shortcomings, like fear of incompetence or disrespectful individuals are much more loaded topics to address and often involve much more sensitive, less objective critiques of the individual. Thus, it is often easier to avoid addressing these individuals.

Addressing potential medical errors and behaviors that can lead to them can often be awkward and difficult. We here at understand this. However, the benefits in doing so will lead to less errors, higher patient satisfaction, and lower medical malpractice liability risk. In turn, reducing your medical errors and your number of medical malpractice lawsuits could also help to lower your physician liability rates in the long run.

Would you like to see if we can lower your med mal rates? Complete our free, no-obligation quote request today.

Report: Communication Breakdown Leads to Hospital Errors
March 22, 2011, 6:48 PM ET

We’ve written about how a small but significant number of health-care workers show disrespect for colleagues, dole out verbal abuse and engage in other unacceptable behavior. Now a new report suggests this kind of poor workplace communication can also contribute to medical errors, even if other preventive steps are being taken.

According to a two-pronged survey of operating-room and critical-care nurses conducted by their professional associations and VitalSmarts, a global training and consulting firm, 85% of 2,383 nurses surveyed said they’d been in a situation where measures put in place to reduce errors – including checklists or hand-off protocols — warned them of a problem that would have otherwise harmed a patient.

Original Article

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