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How the IPASS system may reduce medical errors

Although medical errors have become increasingly rare in the modern health care system, on the infrequent occasions when do occur in hospitals, they have the potential to be devastating and even life-threatening. Patients in New Mexico may be interested in reading about a new form of inter-doctor communication that has the potential to reduce medical errors by as much as 30 percent, according to experts from the Harvard Medical School who are currently studying the system, known as IPASS.

The Harvard team advocates the institution of the IPASS system, which focuses on the handoff phase of a procedure, when one doctor or team of professionals gives charge of the patient to another doctor or group. This is considered to be a particularly vulnerable time for the patient as the changing of medical teams introduces the possibility of miscommunication and the erroneous transmission of critical information.

The IPASS system asks the doctor to offer five types of information at the time of handoff in both written and verbal form. IPASS is an acronym standing for "illness severity," "patient summary," "action list," "situation awareness and contingency planning," and "synthesis by receiver." The phrase "situation awareness and contingency planning" refers to the recommendation that the doctor articulate a clear plan for further action while "synthesis by receiver" means that there is acknowledgement and reciprocal exchange of information between the two doctors or groups.

In addition to the potentially catastrophic physical effects it can cause, medical malpractice can result in significant financial hardship for a patient and his or her family. These costs and the injuries suffered at the hands of an incompetent or negligent medical technician may be considered worthy of restitution under New Mexico law. A lawsuit that holds the responsible parties accountable may lead to just compensation for the harm that has been done. An attorney could help a patient in this situation build a case that clearly demonstrates that a medical error has been made on account of negligence and represent him or her in a court of law or at the settlement table.

Source: CBS News, "A key thing doctors can do to reduce hospital errors", Steven Reinberg, November 06, 2014

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