According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, better communication between physicians during shift changes can reduce medical errors and preventable adverse events. Researchers conducted a prospective intervention study of a resident handoff-improvement program in nine hospitals to measure rates of medical errors, preventable adverse events and miscommunications and resident workflow. The study required physicians to write down instructions during handoffs and read them back to make sure they understood them. The handoff involved physicians discussing details of the patient’s history and an action list of what needed to be done. This improved communication reduced medical errors by 23 percent and preventable adverse events by 30 percent. Other studies have shown that 80 percent of serious medical errors stem from miscommunication-typically during shift changes.
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