Thursday, September 6, 2007

Understanding the Process of Transmitting Information

One of the byproducts of the Industrial Revolution has been the ability to standardize the components used in the mass production of manufactured goods. Standardization of parts according to predetermined specifications is what leads to greater efficiency and a uniformity of quality control.

Many of today's manufacturing plants use subassemblies that have been put together in various locations and then shipped to a final destination. A car taking shape on an assembly line in Fremont, California may be put together using subassemblies constructed in cities across America.

In the "Age of McMedicine," a similar level of standardization and quality control in applying the language of medicine must exist in order to safely, accurately, and properly transmit information about a patient's care.

  • What happens when critical information regarding patient care gets altered in the process of adding documentation to a medical chart?

  • What if someone's speech or handwriting is easily subject to misinterpretation?

A favorite cartoon among transcriptionists shows a physician's tombstone with the epitaph: "He never spelled the patient's name." Simple errors in how information is transmitted can result in a life-threatening mistake as medical personnel fail to learn of a patient's allergy to certain drugs, prescribe the wrong medication to a patient, administer an inappropriate dosage, or mistakenly assume that a patient needs to be treated for symptoms he does not exhibit.

Until hospital administrators and risk management personnel are willing to attack this industry-wide problem at its source -- the doctors -- hospitals, clinics, and many private practices will continue to hemorrhage red ink.

It's easy to visualize such a problem in theory. But what if such a mistake involved one of your patients? Does the word "liability" spring to mind?

  • What if you were the patient?

  • Would you think about filing a lawsuit?

Next: Learning To Communicate Effectively

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