My interest in interpersonal communication and patient safety began in a seminar on doctor-patient communication that I took with Linda Lederman during the first year of my doctoral studies at Arizona State University in 2006. One of the seminar discussions focused on bad news delivery in healthcare. In that context, I realized that communication science at that time had no theories that dealt with the interpersonal communication of human errors. Furthermore, studies showed a severe burden of human errors in medicine for both practitioners and patients, implying that the harm-inducing potential of medical errors ranks ahead of high-profile diseases such as AIDS and cancer. Furthermore, I found out that about two thirds of preventable adverse events in healthcare were caused by insufficient communication, and that dissatisfying provider-patient interactions after such events are one of the main motivating reasons for patients to suffer emotional distress and pursue malpractice claims.

It was at that time -- about ten years ago -- that I realized that communication science has the potential to make a difference, and I started to work on developing and validating a theoretical framework that could inform communication guidelines for an optimal prevention and response to medical adverse events.

Ever since then, I won several grants to support the establishment of a global interdisciplinary research team that led to the founding (in 2013) of what is now known as the ISCOME Global Center for the Advancement of Communication Science in Healthcare. The initial funding I received was an applied grant that financed a conference on the intersection between communication science and medical error (“COME 2013: International Conference on Communicating Medical Error”). That first COME 2013 conference gathered leading scholars from various disciplines and countries to develop a coherent research agenda on this challenging topic area. Immediately following the conference, the Journal of Public Health Research invited a special issue (open-access) to publish the expert discussions that took place during the meeting. The experts reconvened in Washington in November of that same year for a research convention. This is also where ISCOME was formally founded.

The second grant funded a follow-up international conference in 2015 that was carried out in Montecatini Terme (Tuscany, Italy) under the title "ISCOME 2015: The Golden Bridge -- Communication and Patient Safety." This second conference hosted world-renowned scientists from over a dozen disciplines and countries to exchange their perspectives and establish fruitful new global collaborations with the objective to visibly impact the quality and safety of care. The paper submissions and conference attendance of this second conference (see video above) doubled the count of the original COME 2013 conference. A third grant funded another international meeting in Switzerland (ISCOME 2016 Workgroup Meeting) for which a team of 30 selected interdisciplinary scientists gathered to develop a coherent ISCOME research agenda that addresses six „hot topics“ of patient safety: big data, digital health technologies, team coordination, patient/family activation, patient-centered care, and healthy aging. To read more about ISCOME’s activities, click here.

ISCOME's most recent public event took place in form of an invited ISCOME conference track within the ISQua 2017 conference in London. ISCOME conducted three high-quality panels at that renowned international meeting, which counted over 1'500 attendees from around the world. The videos below showcase two of the three conference panels, which were recorded in the plenary room:

Panel 1: “Horizons for Evaluation and Accreditation: How do we Assess ‘Safe Communication’ as a Core Competency?”

Discussion leader: Sir Liam Donaldson (UK)
Panelists: Marcia Childress (US), John Launer (UK), Annegret Hannawa (CH), Graham McMahon (US)

Synopsis: What is “safe communication”? What are examples of safe and unsafe communication in clinical practice? How can we learn to communicate safely? How can we assess safe communication? How can we engage clinicians to improve their interactions in their daily practice encounters? How can a system be elevated to make “safe communication” a core part of its organizational culture? What are challenges to mandating and implementing safe communication skills on a national level? The panelists address these (and many more) critical questions in a lively, interactive discussion and convey clear messages and methods that you can take home with you to get started.

Panel 2: " Interdisciplinary Research Priorities for Safer, Higher Quality Care”

Discussion leaders: Cliff Hughes (ISQUA), Annegret Hannawa (ISCOME)
ISCOME Panelists: Rick Iedema (UK), John Øvretveit (SE); Aziz Sheikh (UK)
ISQUA Panelists: David Greenfield (AU), Ezequiel García-Elorrio (AR)

Synopsis: What communication issues challenge the quality and safety of healthcare in every region of the world? What are appropriate methods for conducting interdisciplinary research that addresses these challenges? How can findings from one section of the world be disseminated and shared with people from other sections of the world? The panelists of this session showcase a “tasting menu” of very different interdisciplinary research studies that have been conducted to examine communication challenges in various countries across the world. The panelists engage in a lively discussion to explore how the findings of such investigations may be implemented into practice to affect measurable frontline improvements.