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Cognition research aims to reduce medical errors
Date:9/12/2011

WASHINGTON How doctors, nurses and other health care professionals can be better prepared to reduce medical mistakes and improve patient care is the focus of several studies published in a special issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

"These studies examine the cognitive issues related to a wide range of important safety problems in various health care scenarios, from hospital operating rooms to young adult education programs about sexually transmitted disease," said Daniel G. Morrow, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Morrow and Francis T. Durso, PhD, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, introduced and edited the articles.

The issue presents seven peer-reviewed papers that focus on health care impacts affected by cognition, which encompasses mental processes and functions such as comprehension, decision-making, planning and learning. The number of deaths from preventable medical errors is "equivalent to a 727 (jet) or two crashing every day of the year," Morrow and Durso said, citing a landmark 1999 Institute of Medicine study. While there have been advances in performance research related to health care, recent studies show medical errors remain a significant challenge to the health care system, they said.

Collectively, the studies address threats to patient safety due to provider errors in diagnosis, medication and surgery, and patient issues such as decision-making regarding illness prevention and self-care. Examples of the research findings include:

  • Nurses who recognize patient identification errors before giving medication appear to visually scan information differently from nurses who more frequently make mistakes, according to "Nurses' Behaviors and Visual Scanning Patterns May Reduce Patient Identification Errors," Jenna L. Marquard, PhD, Ze He, MS, Junghee Jo, MS, Donald L. Fisher, PhD, and Elizabeth A. Henneman, PhD, University
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Contact: Lisa Bowen
lbowen@apa.org
202-336-5700
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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