When clinicians talk with patients we bring our compassion and knowledge to the table. Patients, our partners in achieving outcomes, bring their knowledge, their apprehensions, their belief systems and their beliefs to the table. We must share our knowledge in order to assure patient safety. Clinicians must listen to patients, and if patients seem reluctant to talk then we must ask probing questions.
Transitions in care represent potential weak links that couple together the complex array of care options that patients may encounter as they traverse the modern healthcare system. Errors in communication can occur at shift changes for nurses and physicians, especially house officers, between units within hospitals (in some systems multiple transfers between wards is the norm) and between facilities. Each of these transitions requires the transmittal of precise relevant information that enables the transition to go smoothly so that errors are anticipated and eliminated, or at least reduced to the bare minimum of risk. Failure to do so can have catastrophic consequences.
Sometimes, even when we try to explain things very carefully the message does not really get through. I have often sensed this happening during a conversation, and usually it is due to a patient’s or family member’s lack of comprehension of what I have said, despite my well-intentioned efforts. Some patients want simple solutions and explanations and when these cannot be provided they are less attuned to comprehension and understanding of the uncertainties and more complex explanations.
Why is it so complicated when it comes to patient safety?
In real estate there is a common dictum about what most makes a property desirable – “location, location, location”. In healthcare there is also a dictum about what makes providing healthcare services so complicated – “communication, communication, communication”. Dys-communication, occurs so frequently and has so many nuances that it is often hard to fathom just how many opportunities there are for things to go wrong. What we say and how we say things to colleagues or patients and family members may lack accuracy and clarity resulting in lack of understanding and harm.
Datix is the leading supplier of patient safety software for healthcare risk management, incident and adverse event reporting. We are committed to improving patient safety and service user safety, with over 80 million+ people protected by our software. The software is widely used within both public and private healthcare organisations around the world.