Patient Care System Aims to Reduce Medical Errors

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2007 - The defense department has trained thousands of military health care providers to employ a quality management system that's designed to minimize human errors in hospital operating and delivery rooms, a senior defense official said yesterday.

The Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety, or TeamSTEPPS, program stresses teamwork and communication among doctors, nurses and other healthcare givers to improve quality, safety and efficiency across military health care, Dr. David N. Tornberg, deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical and program policy, said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

"Providing the optimum, cutting-edge care to our beneficiaries is what this is all about," Tornberg said. "And, I'm proud to say that the department of defense and the military health care system are absolute leaders in enhancing a culture of safety in our military treatment facilities."

Use of TeamSTEPPS creates "an environment where people broadly communicate and have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the team," he said.

Establishing a culture of patient-centered care through the use of teamwork and enhanced communication among health care employees is absolutely vital, Tornberg said. "Miscommunication clearly is associated with medical errors," he said.

More than 5,000 health care givers at more than 80 military treatment facilities in the continental United States have received TeamSTEPPS instruction in the last three years, Tornberg said. And now, about 1,000 trainers and coaches are teaching the concept at other military hospitals and clinics, he said.

The program has been "incredibly well-received" by military health care givers, Tornberg said.

The training system was developed from more than 20 years of experience in the aviation, military, nuclear power, healthcare, business and other safety-conscious industries, Tornberg said.

The defense department is now collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to make TeamSTEPPS available to the public health care industry, he said.

The military health system operates 72 hospitals and more than 500 medical and dental clinics administering care to more than 9.3 beneficiaries, according to DoD documents.

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