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New practices could improve patient care, reduce medical errors

Some hospitals are adopting practices for handing off patients when doctors and nurses change shifts that could reduce misunderstandings. Sometimes when shift changes occur, important information is not communicated to the new staff or is misunderstood, thereby increasing the possibility of poor patient care in South Carolina and nationwide. By taking a moment to personally hand off patients to the people coming on shift, medical professionals might be able to decrease errors that lead to medical malpractice litigation.

The approach at certain hospitals specifically involves bedside handoffs, whereby the staff members starting their shift would introduce themselves to the patients and speak directly with the personnel who have been caring for the patients up until that point. Doctors and nurses could go over important points, such as forthcoming test results and what needs to be done for the patient during that shift. This bedside introduction not only reduces the chances for mistakes but also is reassuring to patients who will then know who to look to for help until the next shift change.

According to the director of safety innovation for Emergency Medicine Associates, around two dozen hospitals have stated that they will use this new practice in their emergency rooms, and around 200 others have indicated an interest in learning more. Although the process is time-consuming and not every patient will be able to receive a bedside introduction for each shift, doctors who have implemented the practice say that they feel that it is safer.

Patients trust hospital staff to give them the best possible care, but sometimes doctors and nurses make mistakes that have serious consequences. If someone suffers an injury or incurs additional medical expenses due to medical staff errors, such as misreading a chart or not following up on procedures, it may be possible to hold the health care provider accountable in civil court.

Source: MarketWatch, "A simple way to prevent medical mistakes", March 20, 2014

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