Hospital Uses “Storytelling” Approach to Prevent Medication Errors

A hospital in Houston, Texas has adopted a “narrative-based approach” of communicating the details of medication errors to hospital staff (login required). A medication safety consultant employed by the hospital found that the prior approach, which relied on unit managers to pass along information to their teams, was not leading to greater institutional knowledge about how to avoid medication errors. The new approach involves the production of short videos detailing the issues that led to a specific medication error. The success of the program is difficult to measure, as it is based solely on self-reporting by hospital leaders who seemed to perceive a substantial reduction in medication errors during the eight-month pilot program. The program bears some similarities to how many attorneys approach claims for pharmacy and medication errors, as a narrative story told to the judge and the jury.

MD Anderson Cancer Center ran a pilot program from October 2012 to June 2013. Every month, a team consisting of a nurse, a pharmacist, and a patient safety specialist would review recent medication errors to identify important concerns. They would decide on three events or issues, and another multidisciplinary team would pick one to use in a video. The hospital’s communications department would handle the actual production, including writing a script, shooting and editing the video, and formatting it into a PowerPoint presentation.

Once the hospital administration approved the final video, it would be uploaded to the hospital’s intranet. The hospital’s various department heads and team leaders would be notified of the new video. The leaders would then be responsible for showing the video to their teams. The hospital produced one video a month for eight months. Hospital leaders reportedly accessed the videos more than 3,500 times during that period, and eighty-three percent of them showed the videos during staff meetings. A majority of leaders said in survey responses that the videos were a “very” or “extremely” successful means of communication. The hospital permanently adopted the program, and has expanded it to share other information besides medication errors.

The safety consultant who spearheaded the program noted that the hospital still conducts root cause analyses for adverse events, including medication errors. The videos serve to communicate to the hospital community the core issues presented by recent medication errors. The approach is reminiscent of one means of presenting a claim for medical malpractice arising from a pharmacy error. A plaintiff must prove several specific elements of professional negligence: the applicable standard of care; the specific actions, or lack of action, by a doctor or pharmacist that breached this standard; a causal relationship between this breach and the plaintiff’s injuries; and the damages that resulted. In many cases, the most effective way to present this case is in a narrative form, with the breach of the standard of care serving as the first dramatic turning point in the story.

The Maryland attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist victims of pharmacy and medication errors, who have been injured by drugs prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

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