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BMJ Qual Saf 20:268-274 doi:10.1136/bmjqs.2010.040238
  • Error management

Descriptions of verbal communication errors between staff. An analysis of 84 root cause analysis-reports from Danish hospitals

  1. Torben Mogensen5,6
  1. 1Danish Society for Patient Safety, Hvidovre Denmark
  2. 2Unit for Patient Safety, Capital Region, Hvidore, Denmark
  3. 3Danish Institute for Medical Simulation, Capital Region, Herlev, Denmark
  4. 4Department of Surgery and Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  5. 5Department of Orthopaedics and Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  6. 6Hvidovre Hospital, Capital Region, Hvidovre, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Louise Isager Rabøl, Danish Society for Patient Safety, Hvidovre Hospital, Kettegard Alle 30, DK-2650 Hvidovre, Denmark; louiseraboel{at}dadlnet.dk
  • Accepted 4 July 2010
  • Published Online First 5 January 2011

Abstract

Introduction Poor teamwork and communication between healthcare staff are correlated to patient safety incidents. However, the organisational factors responsible for these issues are unexplored. Root cause analyses (RCA) use human factors thinking to analyse the systems behind severe patient safety incidents. The objective of this study is to review RCA reports (RCAR) for characteristics of verbal communication errors between hospital staff in an organisational perspective.

Method Two independent raters analysed 84 RCARs, conducted in six Danish hospitals between 2004 and 2006, for descriptions and characteristics of verbal communication errors such as handover errors and error during teamwork.

Results Raters found description of verbal communication errors in 44 reports (52%). These included handover errors (35 (86%)), communication errors between different staff groups (19 (43%)), misunderstandings (13 (30%)), communication errors between junior and senior staff members (11 (25%)), hesitance in speaking up (10 (23%)) and communication errors during teamwork (8 (18%)). The kappa values were 0.44–0.78. Unproceduralized communication and information exchange via telephone, related to transfer between units and consults from other specialties, were particularly vulnerable processes.

Conclusion With the risk of bias in mind, it is concluded that more than half of the RCARs described erroneous verbal communication between staff members as root causes of or contributing factors of severe patient safety incidents. The RCARs rich descriptions of the incidents revealed the organisational factors and needs related to these errors.

Footnotes

  • Funding Det Kommunale MomsfondBredgade 54—Postboks 21811017 København K, The Pharmacy Foundation of 1991.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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