ER Medical Errors Linked to Interruptions

As Mark Abramson wrote in the last blog post, emergency rooms are often busy, chaotic places and rife with potential medical errors. A new study by University of Indiana researchers and published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The research shows that emergency room doctors are subjected to numerous interruptions from patient care by a wide variety of issues not always related to the patient.

“This report is more groundbreaking, in that we found that in spite of moving toward electronic medical records and point of care testing systems, we haven’t increased the amount of time ED physicians spend on direct care activities,” says Carey D. Chisholm, MD, lead author an emergency room physician at Indiana University School of Medicine and Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis

That so little time is spent in direct patient interaction, or physically examining the patient, is a concern, Chisholm says.

“Facets of communication are facilitated when you have direct interaction. And the fact that so much of this care has to take place away from the bedside does not facilitate communication between the patient and the physician and their family.”

Medical errors are often committed by actions or omissions. However, in this instance, the process is the culprit. If patient care processes in emergency rooms were streamlined so that doctors could focus first and foremost on patient care with fewer interruptions, it seems from this study that there would be fewer medical errors.