Health care experts have identified a way to dramatically cut the rate of serious medical errors, and it doesn’t involve expensive new equipment or ramping up the number of employees. The idea is simple: Talk more to your patients and their families.
A program developed at Boston Children’s Hospital focuses on reducing errors that occur when one health care provider hands off a patient to another provider at the end of a shift by talking more. The results have been promising and many hospitals have adopted the program. Researchers wanted to see what would happen if they extended it to patients and their families.
During rounds, when the care team visits a hospitalized patient, they start by asking the patient and their family if they have any questions or concerns. The providers give updates and go over the care plan, avoiding medical jargon and aiming for clarity. Then comes the kicker: The patients and families are asked to repeat what they just heard to be sure they understood.
Researchers reviewed patient charts and talked to staff, patients and families about any medical errors reported or observed. The kinds of errors ranged from non-harmful, such as a delay in a consultation with a specialist, to harmful, a child with a history of seizures hitting his head during a seizure while being transferred from a wheelchair to a bed. The study found the overall rate of errors did not change, but the rate of harmful errors fell by 38 percent in three months after the program was started.
The bigger takeaway was that families felt more comfortable asking questions, and the entire care team felt more engaged. It seems it does take a village to help a patient get well again.