Medical communications

New book says better communication is the key to reducing medical errors

The book aims to assist physicians and medical educators with recognizing the complexity of communication in health care.

Physicians’ illegible handwriting is a longstanding joke, but when an elderly patient became ill after he worked with his physician to discover that a pharmacist had misread the handwriting on a script, it wasn’t funny.

A new book offers strategies to resolve common medical communication errors like this example.

AOA Past President Robert S. Juhasz, DO, is a contributing author of New Horizons in Patient Safety: Understanding Communication, Case Studies for Physicians. The book was written by lead author Annegret Hannawa, PhD, from the University of Lugano in Switzerland; Albert Wu, MD, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, is also a contributing author.

Dr. Juhasz, associate clinical professor of medicine at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens (OU-HCOM), also worked with Kara Guisinger, OMS IV, from OU-HCOM in the development and discussion of the case studies in the book.

“Reviewing the cases emphasized how interwoven the issues of patient safety and quality improvement are in everyday actions,” says Guisinger.

In this edited interview, Dr. Juhasz explains how physicians and medical students can benefit from reading this book.

Who should read this book?

This book was developed to assist physicians and those that educate medical students, residents and fellows with recognizing the complexity of communication. Through reviewing the cases presented, the hope is that they are better able to:

  • Prevent gaps in communication that lead to gaps in patient safety and quality.
  • Improve the care that we provide to those who we are privileged to see as patients.

How can this book help physicians to improve their communication skills?

Robert S. Juhasz, DO

This book discusses the impact that the lack of excellent communication has on medical care and creates a framework for being able to better understand how gaps in communication occur. This book provides example cases of communication gaps to create an environment of self-discovery and awareness for the learner. These cases also provide readers with opportunities to discuss how these gaps can be avoided.

What have you learned from working on this book?

Communication is intricate and complex in and of itself. Participating in this work gave me new insight into the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication as well as the need to continually hone my own communication skills.

What do you find most thought-provoking about this book?

Increased technology has been created to protect us from making errors. Yet the need to establish relationships with those who we are communicating with has never been greater.

What do osteopathic physicians in particular need to know about this book?

As osteopathic medical students, educators and physicians, we pride ourselves in taking time to care for the whole person. To really understand a patient, we must be aware of our blind spots in communication and continuously work to improve our abilities to optimize outcomes on their behalf.

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