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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Communication is crucial to safe patient care

Throughout society, whenever there is a problem, you can usually bet that ineffective communication is one of the reasons for it.

The healthcare industry is no different -- communication failures were cited as root causes in approximately 65 percent of all sentinel events reviewed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations since 1995. This is the leading cause for serious adverse events, and a major cause for concern.

So it's no surprise that one of JCAHO's Patient Safety Goals is to improve the effectiveness of communication among caregivers.

[Learn more about Patient Safety Goal #2: Communication" by downloading JCAHO's Frequently Asked Questions sheet on this topic here.]

"Whether it is reading back orders, limiting the use of abbreviations or taking the time to properly 'hand off' patient information to fellow staff and physicians, communication is essential to assuring patient safety," said Karen Long, RN, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Backus Hospital.

At Backus, staff members are expected to:


  • Writing down all verbal or telephone orders, and reading them back.
  • Not use dangerous or unacceptable abbreviations.
  • Communicate patient information in timely manner, including critical laboratory values.
  • Follow established protocol for 'hand off' communications.


Peter Shea, MD, Medical Director at Backus, said hospital and medical staff should never underestimate the importance of communication, especially in an increasingly complex healthcare environment with many different clinicians, on various shifts and at multiple locations, involved in patient care.

"Communication must always be a top priority for everyone in our organization," said Mary Bylone, RN, Assistant Vice President, Patient Care Services and Patient Safety Officer. "I cannot stress enough how important this is to the safety of our patients."

Anyone with questions about the National Patient Safety Goals, or suggestions to help Backus improve patient safety, can call Ms. Bylone at 860-889-8331 ext. 2771 or Joe Hughes, Director of Quality Improvement, at 860-889-8331 ext. 2345.

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