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The link between communication and medical errors

Louisiana residents have good reason to be concerned about the quality of their health care as it only takes one misstep by a doctor, nurse or other medical professional to cause serious harm or even death to a patient. In looking at the various factors that may contribute to some medical errors, communication has been identified as one area where improvement can be made.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, a 2015 CRICO Strategies report outlined some disturbing information about communication mistakes made involving nurses. Out of the cases that occurred over a span of five years that were studied, some type of gap or mistake in communicating between medical providers was noted in 72 percent of cases. This might include something like one nurse or a doctor not reading a nurse’s notes or a nurse not debriefing another nurse when a shift change occurred. Another 35 percent of cases involved communication gaps between nurses and their patients. Both types of problems were factors in seven percent of the cases studied.

When it comes to understanding whether or not communication can be improved and whether or not those improvements could translate into better safety for patients, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine seems to indicate that advances can in fact be made.

Stanford Medicine detailed how a process that required medical residents to follow a standard set of steps when they changed shifts saw a drop in adverse events identified to be preventable by 30 percent. This was done through a combination of written and oral communication.


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