Rounding tools can eliminate medical communication errors, study finds

Highly structured information gathering tools used to collect patient data before multidisciplinary rounds can help facilitate accurate communication and ultimately lead to improved care transitions, according to a new study published in JMIR Human Factors.

Recent research suggests patients discussed on the back end of multidisciplinary rounds are allocated less time than those discussed toward the beginning of these meetings, which may contribute to communication breakdowns during handoffs. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, approximately 70 percent of deaths caused by medical errors are related to miscommunication during patient handoffs.

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For the study, researchers recorded multidisciplinary care team meetings, involving 82 different patients. Information on patients was presented with one of two rounding tools: SOAP — for Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan — or HAND-IT, a systems-oriented handoff intervention tool.

Recordings were assessed for time allocation per patient and for any failure in the information transfer between incoming and outgoing staff. The assessments revealed disparities in time allocation per patient and failures in the transfer of information were improved by either tool when compared to no tool. The difference in performance between the two tools was not significant.

"Our results help to demonstrate the benefits of using structured rounding tools for reducing communication errors and improving patient care quality and safety," said Joanna Abraham, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical and health information sciences in the University of Illinois Chicago College of Applied Health Sciences. "Although our results are preliminary, they present a strong case for further research into rounding communication."

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