The incidence of medical errors due to miscommunication is indeed very high, based on the statistical data. The major problem is that communication failures are often extremely dangerous to patients’ health. As noted by Müller et al. (2018), miscommunication is particularly frequent during handover situations, throughout the perioperative period, and in settings with intensive care units and emergency departments. While the SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) communication tool is commonly implemented in many hospitals, its routine use is associated with merely moderate improvements in patient safety (Müller et al., 2018). It means that in order to reduce the incidence of medical errors, a regular and systematic application of effective communication techniques may not be enough. It is also essential to enhance the overall culture in settings, foster team collaboration, provide professional support for care providers, and enforce adequate policies.
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Another common issue associated with miscommunication is the failure to disclose medical mistakes. Disclosure of errors is legal and ethical behavior, and it is essential to share information about practice mistakes timely in order to prevent severe health complications. As stated by Petronio et al. (2013), disclosing own mistakes is always hard as one’s involvement in medical errors is “filled with second guessing, guilt, and self-blame” (p. 74). These adverse emotions induce tension between a sense of responsibility and a desire to protect oneself. For this reason, each hospital must adopt a strategy on how to handle disclosure of mistakes effectively and alleviate the psycho-emotional burden on practitioners involved in mistakes. It is valid to say that by improving their medical error disclosure mechanisms, hospitals will become able to decrease the likelihood of malpractice because when problems are hidden, it is impossible to respond to them. Conversely, disclosure of mistakes helps to gain awareness of what must be done to better the quality of care.
Müller, M., Jürgens, J., Redaèlli, M., Klingberg, K., Hautz, W. E., & Stock, S. (2018). Impact of the communication and patient hand-off tool SBAR on patient safety: A systematic review. BMJ Open, 8(8), e022202.
Petronio, S., Torke, A., Bosslet, G., Isenberg, S., Wocial, L., & Helft, P. R. (2013). Disclosing medical mistakes: A communication management plan for physicians. The Permanente Journal, 17(2), 73-79.