Night Docs Need Electronic Info System to Save Lives

Inadequate handoff details can cost lives
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2008 2:10 AM CDT
Night Docs Need Electronic Info System to Save Lives
Doctors don't just need to be rested, they also need to have all necessary information about their patients.   (Shutterstock)

The night-float hospital system, in which one resident works the night shift so that others can sleep, was created so that patients could receive care from rested, focused doctors. But there are rarely mechanisms in place to ensure the night workers have all the patient information they need when they take over, meaning doctors can make potentially fatal errors, reports physician Sandeep Jauhar in Slate.

Information is often forgotten when one resident discusses a patient when handing off a case.To avoid accidents, hospitals need to implement standardized electronic information hand-off systems—covering specific details—to provide night-shift doctors with the background they need to make informed decisions, Jauhar argues. “In medicine, as in aviation, most errors occur at transitions,” he writes. “Without better hand-off systems, work limits may weaken medicine more than exhausted residents ever did.” (More health care stories.)

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