MY SPOTLIGHT...

...on this year's "international patient safety day" focusing on "communication in healthcare"

ON SUNDAY, 17. SEPTEMBER 2017

What is it about interpersonal communication that makes it so important to patient safety? Looking at the global literature on the role of communication as a contributing factor to patient safety events, we can derive that at least every 2-6 seconds, a patient is harmed by poor communication somewhere in the world. What does that tell us? It shows us that communication is more than a soft skill. It constitutes a considerable risk factor in healthcare. We published two books with DeGruyter this year in which we conceptualize this type of communication as “unsafe communication”. We studied what it looks like. We identified five “SACCIA” errors that commonly contribute to preventable patient harm. These five communication errors directly translate into five “SACCIA” core competencies that we must learn and teach to make healthcare safer:

1.     S = Sufficiency (cover sufficient information)
2.    
A = Accuracy (convey correct information, decode it correctly, and use communication as an interactive validation process)
3.    
C = Clarity (avoid vagueness and use your communication with each other to reduce uncertainties)
4.    
C = Contextualization (always frame communication in its given context)
5.    
IA = Interpersonal Adaptation (watch out for verbally and nonverbally expressed needs, and adapt to them spontaneously)

Over the past few years, patient safety has come such a long way with its efforts. This year's International Patient Safety Day motivates us to mobilize the interpersonal pathways to safer care – to improve the “working together” part of healthcare – so that along with us humans, healthcare will become more reliable and consistent. So that we can save time. So that we can cut preventable expenses. And, most importantly, that we can protect and save patients’ lives – at least one life every 2-6 seconds! Imagine that impact.

That said, if I had a wish, I would want this to be the world’s focus on September 17 this year: Safer communication, safer healthcare.

Let us begin now to implement what we know into everyday practice. As practitioners, patients, and care companions. If we do not do this, we say “no” to patient safety. If all of us take that first step today, we will change healthcare forever – maybe with the greatest impact ever measured.

Annegret F. Hannawa, Ph.D., Universität Lugano