Focusing on Teamwork and Communication to Improve Patient Safety
By Jay Bhatt, D.O., and Maureen Swick, R.N.
Patient safety experts agree that communication and teamwork skills are essential for providing quality health care. When all clinical and nonclinical staff collaborate effectively, health care teams can improve patient outcomes, prevent medical errors, improve efficiency and increase patient satisfaction.
The AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) and American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) offer evidence-based tools and resources on improving communication, teamwork and collaboration, including education and training to implement these tools and foster a culture of safety.
TeamSTEPPS®—Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety—is an evidence-based program aimed at optimizing performance among teams of health care professionals, so they can respond quickly and effectively to whatever situations arise. The TeamSTEPPS curriculum, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the U.S. Department of Defense with a panel of experts, incorporates more than 25 years of scientific research that has been conducted on teams and team performance. The curriculum focuses on four core teamwork competencies: communication, leading teams, situation monitoring and mutual support.
Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C., MetroHealth in Cleveland, Northwell Health in New York, and UW Medicine in Seattle are among the health systems that have implemented TeamSTEPPS to create and sustain a culture of safety. Visit the TeamSTEPPS website for free access to in-person and online training courses, an annual national conference, materials, videos and recorded webinars, all coordinated by HRET staff via a contract with AHRQ.
AONE’s Care Innovation and Transformation (CIT) program emphasizes problem solving within health care teams to improve quality, safety and patient outcomes. The CIT curriculum includes a rapid-cycle approach to quality improvement, helping teams to gain brainstorming skills, creating measurable aims statements, working with data and presenting findings. The program empowers front-line staff to use their knowledge, skills and creativity to develop care innovations and lead tests of change. This approach strengthens and transforms organizations from the bottom up. Participants of the program report CIT created a culture of shared leadership with all members of the team being responsible and accountable for changes improving quality, satisfaction and safety.
A key aspect in improving teamwork and communication in health care is engaging patients and families. Increasingly, research shows a correlation between increased patient and family engagement and fewer adverse events. Determining how patients and families want to be involved in their care and then engaging them in designing their plan of care increases their understanding of tests, procedures, and anticipated care outcomes, including a successful discharge. Baptist Medical Center Attala, a small, rural hospital in Mississippi, started an inpatient leadership rounding program to increase patient and family engagement. The medical center is part of the HRET Hospital Improvement Innovation Network, which offers a Patient and Family Engagement Fellowship. AONE has guiding principles on safety and patient engagement.
Health care teams that communicate effectively and work collaboratively reduce the potential for error, resulting in enhanced patient safety and improved clinical performance.
This week is Patient Safety Awareness Week. Visit www.aha.org/PSAW for more resources on patient safety topics from across the AHA.
Jay Bhatt is president and CEO of the Health Research & Educational Trust and CMO of the American Hospital Association, and Maureen Swick is CEO of the American Organization of Nurse Executives and senior vice president/CNO of the AHA.