Communication between physicians and their patients is vital in providing those patients with top-notch care. The only things more important than physician-patient communication are communications between physicians. Studies have found that patients are receiving dangerous combinations of over the counter medications due to deteriorations in physician-to-physician communications, and it is becoming a more and more serious problem here in the United States.
The Institute for Healthcare has found that more than 50% of medical errors and 20% of adverse drug interactions occurs due to a communicatory lapse in obtaining vital medical information from patients. This is mostly due to the fact that there is no standardized protocol for physicians to follow, specifically relating to physician-to-physician communication that would ensure patients do not suffer any potential adverse drug interactions.
According to a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, it is possible to significantly decrease these types of errors from occurring and better protecting patients by implementing such a standardized protocol. The authors of the study implemented such a system at Boston Children’s Hospital, which included standardized communication and handoff training, as well as a verbal mnemonic and new team handoff structure. By utilizing this structure created by the researchers, miscommunications and other patient information errors decreased by a total of 45.8%. Perhaps even more surprising was the participants’ ease with which they took to the new structure. Researchers found that participants were both more productive and able to focus more of their energy on the tasks they had to accomplish.
While there is currently no national standardized structure for physician-to-physician communication, there are some things that patients can do to better ensure their own well-being and safety. First, make a list of all of the medications you are currently taking, when you take them during the day and bring that list to your doctor appointments.
Second, don’t be afraid to request that your physician supply you with a hard copy of your medical record. By having your own hard copy you can read what your physician has on file, better ensuring everything is up-to-date and simultaneously looking out for any potential mistakes.
Finally, make sure you travel with that list of medications you made. This way if there is ever an emergency and you need medical care, you have everything you are currently taking in one spot and doctors can provide you with appropriate medical care.
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