Minimize Nurse Interruptions With a Unified Clinical Communication Strategy


Did you know that up to 50 percent of medication errors are caused by interruptions that occur during medication preparation and the administration process?

No doubt alerts and alarms are essential in the care environment, but they can also be distracting and excessive when a caregiver is performing sensitive clinical tasks—which is why alarm safety and event management is an ongoing industry challenge. In fact, according to The Joint Commission's National Safety Goals (NPSG 06.01.01), alarm/alert fatigue poses a significant risk to patient safety. In addition, alarms led the ECRI Institute's 2013, 2014, and 2015 lists of Top 10 Health Technology Hazards.

At Burwood Group, we recommend assessing interruptions as a whole, rather than focusing only on alarms, which are typically generated from core systems (EMR, Physiological Monitors). These alarms are high priority and deserve your utmost attention. However, when coupled with alerts and notifications generated from patients (through nurse call and education systems), bed management systems, peers, and the extended care team, the resulting chaos creates a risk to patients.

Designing an appropriate communication architecture and aligning technology with best practice workflow is more essential today than ever before. Customization of sounds, use of haptic (touch) functionality, intentional pausing of alarms to allow for auto-correction, and interactive indicators allow care providers to visually and audibly triage and remain free of interruption during direct patient care.

Aside from interruptions, an estimated 70 percent of sentinel events involve communication errors, many of which occur during disruptive shift changes and too-rapid handoffs. At these points, incomplete information is more likely to be conveyed, according to The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.

Serious clinical and legal risks arise from miscommunication, alarm fatigue, and interruptions in the fast-paced clinical setting, which is why improving clinical communication is a priority for many hospitals and healthcare systems.

Despite the urgent need to address medical errors related to clinical communication, many hospitals and healthcare systems have not yet established a mobile clinical communication strategy, even as devices and mobile applications have proliferated. By 2013, more than half of physicians used tablets for professional purposes and 74 percent used smartphones at work—but this growth has not necessarily occurred in conjunction with organizational clinical communication strategy or a corresponding reduction in medical errors.

The criticality of alarms and the information they provide is an essential consideration when architecting clinical communication. Learn how to reduce interruptions and communication fatigue and enhance your clinical workflows and care delivery outcomes in our new white paper – A Better Care Environment is Calling: The New Age of Clinical Communication.


February 2, 2017