19% fewer medical errors after team training

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Team training for health care employees can reduce patient mortality by 15 percent, a new study has found. The approach can also reduce medical errors by 19 percent.

Team training aims to improve team-based knowledge, skills, attitudes, and problem-solving interactions. It focuses on developing coordination, cooperation, communication, leadership, and other team-based skills. Team members train in specific roles while performing specific tasks and interact or coordinate to achieve a common goal or outcome.

“Medical error has an estimated economic impact between $735 billion to $980 billion annually in the United States alone,” says study coauthor Eduardo Salas, chair and professor of psychology at Rice University. “In addition, estimates indicate that preventable medical errors occur in one out of every three hospital admissions.

“The evidence is clear: Medical error causes patient harm, and much of this error is preventable. Team training is one possible way to prevent such errors from ever happening.”

Medical errors cause 250,000 US deaths each year

The researchers reported that 19 percent of trainees had, in general, positive reactions to team training. (The remaining trainees were neutral on the topic.) The group training also improved employees’ learning of new skills by 31 percent and on-the-job use of these skills by 25 percent. Financial outcomes of health care organizations were improved by 15 percent. Finally, team training was associated with a 34 percent improvement in clinical performance and 15 percent increase in patient satisfaction.

“Team training has the potential to teach individuals how to better communicate, cooperate and resolve conflicts in workplace settings, including health care,” Salas says. “Ultimately, we found that team training is effective and useful in this field and can save money and, more importantly, lives.”

Salas says the study’s results are encouraging and demonstrate that health care organizations can see moderate to large improvements in their employees’ performance and organizational results by participating in a health care team-training program.

The study examines the impact of training in team settings among 23,018 participants in 129 prior studies. The previous research examined how team training impacted quality of care, customer service, patient satisfaction, and other variables. Participants included health care providers (physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, etc.), allied health care personnel (nurses and therapists), health care staff (unit clerks), and health care students (medical students, nursing students, etc.) and came from facilities ranging from small clinics to large hospitals, both in the US and abroad.

The article will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Applied Psychology. Coauthors are from the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston; the University of Central Florida; Rice University; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and the US Department of Defense. NASA funded the research.

Source: Rice University