Hospital Errors Are More Likely to Transpire at Shift Change
Little Rock, AR (Law Firm Newswire) January 25, 2013 - Given the confusion of shift change at a hospital, it is easy to understand how errors may happen.
“Shift change at a hospital is a beehive of activity, and if someone forgets to pass on something important about a patient to the next caregiver, the door is open for mistakes to happen,” said Mike Smith, an Arkansas injury lawyer and Arkansas accident lawyer, practicing personal injury law in Arkansas personal injury lawyer. “There needs to be a system of checks and balances in place, something like the one used at Massachusetts General Hospital that discusses patients according to how ill they are.”
It might not seem too important to many people to discuss each patient at shift change based on how sick they are, but on reflection, it makes sense. The sicker patients need more care and attention. It is as simple as that. At the Massachusetts General Hospital, shift change and charting begins with the patients needing the most care and works down. They seem to be one of very few hospitals across the country to realize that this kind of attention to detail helps reduce hospital errors.
Hospitals that do not have an orderly system of dealing with patients based on their acuity stand a good chance of making more mistakes. In fact, in a recent study that made its way into the Archives of Internal Medicine, ICU physicians at one hospital examined discussed patients based on their bed number. “Thus if the doctors discussed a patient in Bed 1, who was not critically ill, they spent more time on those at the top of the list, rather than focusing on a patient in Bed 9, who may be in a coma and need specialized care more frequently,” Arkansas injury lawyer Smith explained.
There is a name for this kind of phenomenon: the “portfolio effect,” which relates to spending more time than necessary on early cases on the list, and rushing to finish it off by giving less time to those at the end. The problem is, some of the cases at the end may be shortchanged and not receive the care they need. This is a preventable medical error.
Handing off patients to the next shift is a period of time when everyone needs to be on their toes and ensure that the right information about each patient gets transferred to the new shift. “Are there ways to cut down on medical errors? It would seem there is, but it would require a new approach to shift change and the exchange of patient information. It may also involve using e-health records to streamline the process,” suggested Smith.
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