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Editorials |

Medical Errors and Poor Communication

Joseph G. Murphy, MD, FCCP; William F. Dunn, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

From the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases (Dr Murphy) and the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Dr Dunn), College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.

Correspondence to: Joseph G. Murphy, MD, FCCP, Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905; e-mail: murphy.joseph@mayo.edu


Financial/nonfinancial disclosures: The authors have reported to CHEST that no potential conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2010;138(6):1292-1293. doi:10.1378/chest.10-2263
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Sir William Osler is correctly regarded as the foremost medical educator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but like all of us, he too was subject to human foibles and the “thinking of the era in which he lived.” In this well-known quotation on medical communication, he is almost certainly wrong, as viewed from our current perspective on the importance of carefully choreographed clinical teamwork in the management of critically ill patients. In this issue of CHEST (see page 1475) Hess et al1 report the added benefit of verbal orders in addition to written discharge orders in the management of patients with respiratory failure. The unique aspect of this study is that it identified a simple but effective strategy to reduce intensive care readmissions in a high-risk patient subgroup, namely those with prolonged respiratory failure. The answer was a phone call to the receiving health-care providers that on average reduced readmissions by one-half and saved > $1,000 per patient in readmission costs. In these days of advanced technology in medical care, it is refreshing to see a simple but elegant answer to a perennial and costly ICU problem, namely the issue of readmission of patients following initial successful weaning of mechanical ventilator support.

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