HP Labs Technical Reports
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Improving Clinical Communication: A View from Psychology
Parker, Julie; Coiera, Enrico
Keyword(s): clinical communication; synchronous communications; clinical errors; interruptions; cognitive psychology; memory errors; forgetting; email; voicemail; portable telephones; social influence
Abstract: Recent research has studied the communication behaviours of clinical hospital workers and observed a tendency for these workers to use communication behaviours that were often inefficient. Workers were observed to favour synchronous forms of communication, such as telephone calls and chance face-to-face meetings with colleagues, even when these channels were not effective. Synchronous communications also contribute to a highly interruptive working environment, increasing the potential for clinical errors to be made. This paper reviews these findings from a cognitive psychological perspective, focusing upon current understandings of how human memory functions, and upon the potential consequences of interruptions upon the ability to work effectively. It concludes by discussing possible communication technology interventions that could be introduced to improve the clinical communications environment, and suggests directions for future research.
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