Reducing Interdisciplinary Communication Failures Through Secure Text Messaging: A Quality Improvement Project

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Abstract

Introduction:

Interdisciplinary communication failures contribute to medical mistakes and adverse events. At our institution, provider communication previously occurred through unidirectional pager systems. We utilized quality improvement methodology to (1) implement a secure text messaging system for providers on a pediatric ward and (2) evaluate its impact on communication failures. We aimed to reduce potential communication failures between providers by > 25% within 1 month.

Methods:

Implementation of secure text messaging occurred via Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles focused on education, feedback, and electronic health record interventions. We collected pager data before implementation and both pager and secure text messaging data after intervention. Potential communication failures were identified a priori through manual review of the messaging data to capture lack of closed-loop communication. A run chart was used to track daily potential communication failures and total communication volumes.

Results:

Before implementation of secure text messaging, the median daily potential communication failure rate was 5.5%. Usage of secure text messaging increased after implementation, representing 3.5 of 7.2 communications per patient-day. Paging communications decreased from 4.2 to 3.7 per patient-day. Potential communication failures decreased to a median daily rate of 2.2%, representing a 59% reduction in communication failures.

Conclusion:

Implementation of secure text messaging using quality improvement methods resulted in a significant reduction in potential communication failures between residents and nurses. Future interventions will be aimed at maintaining and augmenting providers’ use of secure text messaging to ensure the potential for communication failure remains low.

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