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Analyzing communication errors in an air medical transport service.

Dalto JD, Weir C, Thomas F. Analyzing communication errors in an air medical transport service. Air medical journal. 2013 May 1; 32(3):129-37.

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INTRODUCTION: Poor communication can result in adverse events. Presently, no standards exist for classifying and analyzing air medical communication errors. This study sought to determine the frequency and types of communication errors reported within an air medical quality and safety assurance reporting system. METHODS: Of 825 quality assurance reports submitted in 2009, 278 were randomly selected and analyzed for communication errors. Each communication error was classified and mapped to Clark''s communication level hierarchy (ie, levels 1-4). Descriptive statistics were performed, and comparisons were evaluated using chi-square analysis. RESULTS: Sixty-four communication errors were identified in 58 reports (21% of 278). Of the 64 identified communication errors, only 18 (28%) were classified by the staff to be communication errors. Communication errors occurred most often at level 1 (n = 42/64, 66%) followed by level 4 (21/64, 33%). Level 2 and 3 communication failures were rare (, 1%). CONCLUSION: Communication errors were found in a fifth of quality and safety assurance reports. The reporting staff identified less than a third of these errors. Nearly all communication errors (99%) occurred at either the lowest level of communication (level 1, 66%) or the highest level (level 4, 33%). An air medical communication ontology is necessary to improve the recognition and analysis of communication errors.

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