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Pages to Doctors Don't Always Hit the Mark
Date:6/19/2009

Mistakes can cause treatment delays and jeopardize care, review suggests,,,,

FRIDAY, June 19 (HealthDay News) -- Dr. Brian Wong, a physician and lecturer at the University of Toronto, was enjoying a rare Saturday off and not on call when his pager unexpectedly beeped.

"I answered the page, and there was the nurse on the other end quite frustrated because she had been calling repeatedly to try to get in touch with another doctor whose patient was having chest pains," he recalled.

Wong was eventually able to identify the correct doctor, but the confusion had been the result of a mistake many people make (but probably hope didn't take place in the health-care world): Two numbers on the pager had been transposed.

"The doctor had actually been available all day and wasn't reached because of a simple transcription error," Wong said. "Information from the paper-based schedule onto the white board hadn't been transferred correctly."

As it turns out, this was not an isolated incident. An investigation by Wong and other physicians, described in the June 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, turned up many similar occurrences.

A review of hospital records from two busy Canadian hospitals -- Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Toronto General Hospital, both affiliated with the University of Toronto -- during a two-month period in early 2008 found that 14 percent of in-hospital pages were sent to the wrong physician when that physician was off duty and out of the hospital.

Almost half of these needed a quick response: 15 percent were marked as emergencies, warranting an immediate reply, and 32 percent were marked urgent, meaning a response was needed within an hour.

The review found that 36 percent were sent during the "post-call" period, which is the day after an on-call shift, 22 percent were sent in the evening and 21 percent during scheduled academic half-days. <
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