Dropping the Ball

The Situation:

Lesley Alderman describes her father’s experience upon discharge from a hospital. The wound care following tumor removal was complex. Complications required that he re-enter hospital for additional care. This article makes a compelling point about the increasing complexity of medical care coupled with the increased shortening of hospital stays. Mistakes can be a big deal. A superb level of coordination is essential for all to go well before, during, and after a hospital stay. Too often things are less than superb.

A critical quality in coordination occurs in communications among health care providers. Too often, someone drops the ball in passing critical information among team members and with the patient. The resulting problems increase costs and decrease patient safety.

What’s Happening?

Communication gaps occur for a variety of reasons. An insidious problem is insufficient mutual respect among health care providers. Their relationships may have a modicum of respect and precede without obvious communication breakdowns, but they lack sufficient respect for people to attend carefully to one another. They may not even devote enough time to be in the same room with the other or to read one another’s reports.

Immediate Action

An essential step towards improving team functioning is to develop careful listening. Building a patient treatment and follow-up plan as a collaborative process provides a powerful method. In doing so, team members are not taking on an extra burden that feels irrelevant to their jobs. Treatment is their primary focus. The key is to actively talk about the communication process and mutual respect while developing and monitoring the plan.

What CREW Has to Offer

CREW is about developing respect through thoughtful reflection on working relationships. The format gives participants opportunities to identify the gaps in their workflow and to develop specific actions to address those gaps.

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