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Lafferty M, Harrod M, Krein SL, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:28(12).
Use of one-way communication technologies, such as pagers, in hospitals have led to workarounds to improve communication. Through observation, shadowing, interviews, and focus groups with nurses and physicians, this study describes antecedents, types, and effects of workarounds and their potential impact on patient safety.
Gupta A, Harrod M, Quinn M, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2018;5:151-156.
This direct observation study of hospitalist teams on rounds and conducting follow-up work examined the interaction between systems problems and cognitive errors in diagnosis. Researchers found that information gaps related to electronic health records, challenges with handoffs, and time constraints all contributed to difficulties in diagnostic cognition. The authors suggest considering both systems and cognitive challenges to diagnosis in order to promote safety.
Carlile N, Rhatigan JJ, Bates DW. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26:24-29.
Despite the ubiquity of smartphones, the vast majority of physicians still rely on one-way pagers for communication. This study analyzed the frequency and content of pages on an internal medicine service at a teaching hospital and compared the data to a similar study performed in 1988. Physicians received an average of 22 pages per day, of which 76% were deemed clinically relevant by independent reviewers and 82% required a response. This represented a nearly 50% increase in the volume of pages compared to 1988. Doctors on regionalized services (where patients were admitted to a common unit) received significantly fewer pages than those caring for patients on nonregionalized services, implying that regionalized services may aid face-to-face communication. As interruptions have been shown to negatively affect patient safety, the authors advocate for developing secure two-way methods of communication (such as secure text messaging) for nurses and physicians in order to improve the efficiency of communication around clinical issues.
Nguyen C, McElroy LM, Abecassis MM, et al. Int J Med Inform. 2015;84:101-10.
Pagers have been a mainstay for urgent clinician–clinician communication for many decades. Increasingly physicians are using a variety of electronic devices, including smartphones and Web-based technologies. This systematic review identified 16 articles that studied different technologies for urgent clinician communication. Each strategy had potential advantages and pitfalls. For example, smartphones are associated with decreased transmission time compared to pagers, but they also result in more clinician interruptions. There is very little evidence linking any specific communication method with benefits for patient care. Future study could more robustly explore which forms of communication are best for clinicians and patients. A prior AHRQ WebM&M commentary describes a case of serious patient harm related to a smartphone interruption.
Drawn on a Thursday, basic labs for a 10-year-old girl came back over the weekend showing a high glucose level, but neither the covering physician nor the primary pediatrician saw the results until the patient's mother called on Monday. Upon return to the clinic for follow-up, the child's glucose level was dangerously high and urinalysis showed early signs of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Laxmisan A, Hakimzada F, Sayan OR, et al. IntJ Med Inform. 2007;76:801-811.
This study evaluated factors that jeopardize safe decision-making using ethnographic observation and interviews. Using a high-paced emergency department (ED) setting, investigators discovered that interruptions occurred nearly every 10 minutes for attending physicians. Observed gaps in communication resulted from poor information flow complicated by inherent multitasking, shift changes, and other activities such as documentation time and utilization of computer resources. The authors present typical workflow patterns in the ED and provide a summary of interview responses to illustrate the taxing nature of cognitive overload facing the studied clinicians. They conclude that carefully designed technology can minimize the effect that interruptions and handoffs have on patient safety.
An elderly man was admitted to the hospital for pacemaker placement. Although the postoperative chest film was normal, the patient later developed shortness of breath. Over the course of several nursing and physician shift changes and signouts, results of a follow-up stat x-ray are not properly obtained, delaying discovery of the patient's pneumothorax.
Failure to enter documentation of a DNR order causes a severely ill elderly man to be resuscitated against his wishes. Shortly thereafter, the patient's wife confirms his wishes, and within minutes, the patient dies.
Bypassing the safeguards of an automated dispensing machine in a skilled nursing facility, a nurse administers medications from a portable medication cart. A non-diabetic patient receives insulin by mistake, which requires his admission to intensive care and delays his chemotherapy for cancer.
Due to a series of incomplete signouts, information about a patient's post-operative leg pain and chest discomfort is not conveyed to the primary team. A PE is discovered post-mortem.