How teamwork can improve patient care

I spent the entire day in meetings today. One would think that is a boring or unproductive way for a physician to spend time, however these meetings made me proud to be a doctor and proud of my colleagues in medicine.

The morning was spent with nurses, respiratory therapists and quality experts who came together to celebrate success with patient safety and quality initiatives that have saved at least 151 patient lives. These caregivers from a number of different hospitals, have worked together for 3 years on on reducing deep venous thrombosis, ventilator acquired pneumonia, skin ulcers and sepsis.

Medicine is a team sport and it is only when the team is humming and everyone is working together that patients can have good outcomes. Hospital errors, medication errors, poor communication between doctors and nurses are prevented by adherence to protocols that everyone follows. It takes laser focus, measuring outcomes and a great deal of hard work to ensure everyone is pulling together in a hospital. The fact that these bedside nurses take the time to work on error reduction and patient safety is really amazing. Have you seen how hard nurses work? My hat is off to these dedicated care-givers.

Tonight I met with physician leaders who are spending their precious “after work” time to discuss how to improve patient care in their communities. We discussed how to seamlessly transfer patients from one hospital to another and how to make sure physicians get continuing medical education to keep their skills on the cutting edge.

We talked about the decline in primary care physicians in most communities and how to help them survive in hostile practice environments when it seems none of the “health care reform” ideas will address the shortage.

While health care reform is being discussed in Washington, doctors and nurses are quietly going about their business providing the best health care we can. I am proud to be associated with these care-givers who are spending enormous amounts of time and energy to improve the system and make the patient the first concern.

Toni Brayer is an internal medicine physician who blogs at EverythingHealth.

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