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Read-back improves information transfer in simulated clinical crises
  1. Matt Boyd1,
  2. David Cumin1,
  3. Braam Lombard2,
  4. Jane Torrie3,4,
  5. Nina Civil1,5,
  6. Jennifer Weller1,4
  1. 1The Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2University of Auckland School of Medicine, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. 3Simulation Centre for Patient Safety, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  4. 4Auckland City Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand
  5. 5Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Matt Boyd, The Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand; matt.boyd{at}


Background Safe and effective healthcare is frustrated by failures in communication. Repeating back important information (read-back) is thought to enhance the effectiveness of communication across many industries. However, formal communication protocols are uncommon in healthcare teams.

Aims We aimed to quantify the effect of read-back on the transfer of information between members of a healthcare team during a simulated clinical crisis. We hypothesised that reading back information provided by other team members would result in better knowledge of that information by the receiver than verbal response without read-back or no verbal response.

Method Postanaesthesia care unit nurses and anaesthetic assistants were given clinically relevant items of information at the start of 88 simulations. A clinical crisis prompted calling an anaesthetist, with no prior knowledge of the patient. Using video recordings of the simulations, we noted each time a piece of information was mentioned to the anaesthetist. Their response was coded as read-back, verbal response without read-back or no verbal response.

Results If the anaesthetists read back the item of information, or otherwise verbally responded, they were, respectively, 8.27 (p<0.001) or 3.16 (p=0.03) times more likely to know the information compared with no verbal response.

Conclusions Our results suggest that training healthcare teams to use read-back techniques could increase information transfer between team members with the potential for improved patient safety. More work is needed to confirm these findings.

  • Crew resource management
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical care
  • Human factors

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