New England Journal of Medicine-Shift Change Communication Key to Medical Error Reduction

A study published on November 6th in the New England Journal of Medicine has confirmed that improved communication between health workers during shift changes dramatically decreases the incidents of medical mistakes and errors. As reported by the Washington University in St. Louis website, “Medical errors such as delays in diagnosis, preventable surgical complications and medication overdoses are a leading cause of death and injury in the United States. An estimated 80 percent of the most serious medical errors can be linked to poor communication between clinicians, particularly during shift changes. For example, a medical error can occur if information about a critical diagnostic test is not relayed correctly from one medical provider to the next at shift change. The study focused on pediatric residents — newly minted doctors training to specialize in pediatrics or a specialty in that field. It found that an intensive three-hour training program focused on improving oral and written communications greatly increased patient safety without significantly burdening existing workflow. The training program included role playing, computer training and use of a mnemonic to structure shift change communication and electronic health record information.”