IROs: Helping Reduce Errors in Healthcare

Human error is inevitable, especially when there are so many people and processes involved in a business. Administrative errors tend to be more apparent in the healthcare industry though, due to the risk of human lives at stake.

Take a look at these statistics:

Though not intentional, these kinds of errors in the care process can result in unnecessary harm to a patient. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the eight most common causes of medical errors include:

  • Communication problems
  • Inadequate information flow
  • Human problems
  • Patient-related issues
  • Organizational transfer of knowledge
  • Staffing patterns and workflow
  • Technical failures
  • Inadequate policies

An error can be something as simple as incomplete patient paperwork. Considering providers fill out an average of 20,000 forms per year and the average ratio of staff handling paperwork to doctors is sometimes as high as 4.23 FTE, the circumstances lend themselves to mistakes.  But these are costly mistakes, as the average health organization spends approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document and $220 for the re-creation of a document.

Methods for Error Mitigation

Completely eliminating errors in any business is unattainable, however there are improvements that can assist in the reduction of critical errors in healthcare.

Comprehensive Communication and Collaboration

Communication and collaboration among clinicians, especially during transitions of care, is an important step in decreasing medical errors. A fair number of errors transpire when a patient’s care is transferred from a primary care physician to a hospital and vice-versa. Approximately 80 percent of serious medical errors involve miscommunication between caregivers during the transfer of patients. 

Focusing on streamlined communication can play a big part in reducing errors. Likewise, supporting collaboration and teamwork among various disciplines within healthcare can improve the quality of care and boost accuracy.

Enhanced Patient Engagement

Encouraging patients to play a more active role in their healthcare can result in multiple advantages. A study conducted by Health Affairs found that members who received enhanced decision-making support had overall medical costs that were 5.3 percent lower than those receiving only the usual support.

Providers can promote engagement by educating and informing patients about their healthcare through regular communication, clear information on conditions and treatment options, recommendations for preventive care and regularly updated medication lists. When patients are more involved in the healthcare process, they’re more empowered to take the steps necessary to improve their overall health.

Reliable Reporting

Not every error that occurs in the industry is reported. Some of this is due to employees who don’t want to admit to an error for fear of punishment from supervisors. Healthcare providers can only benefit from creating a system in which employees can accurately report errors, in order to increase patient safety and improve quality of care. Creating a culture where errors can be reported without fear of reprisal improves employee morale and ensures patients receive quality healthcare. With a goal of transparency and education, processes will improve.

The Role of Independent Review Organizations (IROs)

IROs play a part in reducing errors in healthcare with their attention to detail and precise documentation. By utilizing an unbiased source that can eliminate conflicts of interest and employs experienced physician reviewers, healthcare organizations are better able to decrease risk, thereby improving quality of care. Learn more about the independent review services offered at Advanced Medical Reviews.


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