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Versatility of Mobile Communciation Can Help Prevent Medical Errors

By James Woodson, MD

Researchers find a significant number of communication failures at hospitals. Could they be contributing to preventable patient deaths and disability?

A study in Toronto found that over a two-month period, 14 percent of all pages went to the wrong physician and nearly half of those were emergent or urgent communications.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 8.14.29 AM.pngA study that examined communication failures at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Toronto General Hospital in Toronto, Canada, found that over a two-month period, 14 percent of pages were sent to the wrong physician.[12] That’s an estimated 4,300 misdirected pages each year—half of which are related to emergency or urgent matters.

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While these findings are alarming, they may just be the tip of the iceberg. The researchers based their estimates on the number of times off-duty physicians were paged, which may be an underestimate of total errant pages sent. These pages that were sent to the wrong doctor can result in significant delays to patient care.

Outdated Systems Contribute to Miscommunication

At the two Toronto hospitals studied, health professionals relied on paper-based schedules to determine which physician to page. These outdated systems using paper can make it difficult to keep schedules up to date and are not responsive in real-time to scheduling changes. Furthermore, these systems provide no systematic feedback loop when errant pages are sent to the wrong person.

Mobile-based Platforms Can Help Prevent Communication Errors

Mobile-based team communication can provide solutions to the types of communication errors and delays experienced by the hospitals study by:

  • Notifying Multiple Users
    Using mobile tools, notifications can be sent to multiple numbers at once using a programmable and easily updated call schedule.
  • Making Real-Time Schedule Updates
    Changes made to the schedule could update in real-time for all app users, preventing wasted minutes calling the wrong provider.
  • Using Read Receipts
    App notifications can capitalize on read receipt features to make it possible for people to check whether or not notifications have been opened and read.
  • Sending Transparent Group Communication
    Finally, group notifications using mobile-based tools also create transparent ways to communicate with multiple teams of professionals, making it clear to all what information is being shared and with whom.

Offering exceptional patient care and achieving good outcomes in difficult and emergent cases is enough of a challenge for health professionals. They shouldn’t also have to worry about whether the call schedule is up-to-date, a page went through or the specialist is headed to the hospital. Smarter, mobile-based communication systems can help solve these problems and make it easier to quickly and transparently communicate with the right people, which ultimately leads to better patient care.

REFERENCES:

12. Wong BM, et al. Frequency and Clinical Importance of Pages Sent to the Wrong Physician. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(11):1069-1081.

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ARTICLE CATEGORIES: EMS, Emergency Medicine
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James Woodson, MD

James Woodson, MD

James is a board certified Emergency Physician, and is the Founder, CEO, and President of Pulsara.

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