Risk of Medical Errors by ED Doctors Linked to Interruptions

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , February 7, 2011

Why emergency physicians in academic teaching hospitals had twice as many interruptions is unclear. The authors speculated that some of them might be due to inquiries from students, or the higher overall acuity of illness necessitating discussions with multiple consultants.

Chisholm, however, noted that some reports suggest that when doctors are interrupted, they fail to return to the interrupted task one in five times. "There is evidence supporting the negative effect of interruptions on task performance and subject perception of stress," prompting providers to compensate with short cuts.

But aren't emergency room physicians of a personality type that thrives on fast-paced, ever-changing circumstances, capable of rapid "switchtasking?" Chisholm says that they are. But that doesn't get around the fact that "all the cognitive literature suggests that the human brain doesn't adapt well to interruptions. And at the baseline, it's something we should attempt to control better. It's not a matter of expressing frustration, or whining, it's that you're delivering care less effectively than you should. And it does end up contributing to the potential for medical error."

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1 comments on "Risk of Medical Errors by ED Doctors Linked to Interruptions"

badri (2/8/2011 at 12:27 PM)
Dear Cheryl - I read your fascinating article about the many interruptions to an ED doctor's schedule, the phone calls and the real need to embed an electronic notepad into the EMR that can then serve as the communications mechanism for the hospital and the doctor. AlertMD.com provides such a solution that enables EDs to communicate back and forth. We essentially create a dashboard of all outbound text messages, show whether the doctor has seen the call, acknowledged it, called back, etc., so repeat calls dont have to be made. We eliminate wait times with the answering service and create a log right within the patient record. I am curious to know if other solutions exist in the market today. I would like to get the thoughts from the participating hospitals on how they accomplish the same. We dont discuss how we do this on www.alertmd.com and I will gladly do so if one of the participants contact us. Sincerely, Badri Narasimhan CEO AlertMD LLC www.alertmd.com 312-854-7147




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