In other words, the medical left hand frequently does not know what the medical right hand is doing. For example, a patient who has abdominal surgery and developes a post operative infection and pneumonia might be seen by a general surgeon, an infectious disease doctor, a pulmonologist, and a hopsitalist (an internist or general practioner provided by the hospital who serves as the patient's "family doctor" during the hospital stay). When you add nurses and therapists to the list, things can get confusing. Someone has to take responsiblity for ensuring that orders are established, followed and communicated from the transferring medical team to the receiving team.
Some of the most common problems: tests ordered and not performed, and tests performed but not communicated to the patient. These problems surface in both hospital and outpatient settings.
In fact, according to the study..."more than 37 percent of the time hand-offs were defective and didn't allow the receiver to safely care for the patient." That's a horrible batting average when the major issue here is simple communication.
FROM THE PATIENT'S PERSPECTIVE: ASK QUESTIONS....
Patients should not consider themselves simply mindless cogs in the wheel of a meandering medical vehicle. When there is a "team" in charge of your loved one, here are some questions to ask:
Who's in charge of the team here?
What tests have been ordered?
Who will be following up on the test results?
How long will it normally take to obtain the test results?
Who is going to report the results and when?
Will "negative" test results be communicated as well as positive ones?
Will we be receiving written confirmation of the test results?
This list is not exhaustive, but here's the point: get in the mindset of asking some basic questions, in a polite and non-accusatory fashion, to your loved one's medical providers. Given the hectic nature of busy hospitals, labs, and teams of professionals, and given an almost 40% patient handoff failure rate, the questions you may ask just may save your providers from themselves, thereby saving you from a preventable medical mistake.