Efforts To Improve Communication Between Physicians, Patients

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USA Todayon Wednesday examined efforts to improve communication betweenphysicians and patients to help reduce medical errors. According to a report released earlier this year by the Joint Commission,formerly known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of HealthcareOrganizations, problems with communication can place patients atincreased risk for injuries from medical errors. Hospitals often employteams of specialists, which can cause problems with communicationbecause patients must communicate with different physicians for eachbody part affected by their illnesses, according to Mark Meaney,president and CEO of the National Institute for Patient Rights.

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In response to the problem, CMS next year plans to post on the Hospital CompareWeb site data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providersand Systems, a national patient satisfaction survey that will examinethe performance of hospitals in communication between physicians andpatients. Melvin Hall, CEO of Press Ganey Associates,a company that measures performance in the health care industry, saidthat the data will help patients make more informed health caredecisions.

According to USA Today, some hospitals"are not waiting to begin improving communication" between physiciansand patients. For example, Wisconsin-based Sacred Heart Hospital,which Press Ganey ranks in the top 1% for patient satisfaction, hasimplemented hourly nursing rounds, behavioral standards for physiciansand follow-up telephone calls to patients after they are discharged.

USA Today also profiled Jonathan Fine, a retired physician who in 2005 founded Massachusetts-based Bedside Advocates, an organization that seeks volunteers to serve as patient "guides" and "translate" information from physicians (Donaghue, USA Today, 7/25).
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