Policies that Address Delays in Treatment
Delays in treatment occur when a patient does not get the treatment that has been ordered within the timeframe in which is it supposed to be delivered. Delays in treatment can be a late medication dose, a late or delayed lab test or radiology exam. Delays in treatment can be minor or they can significantly affect patient safety and outcomes.
Communication issues are often cited as reasons for treatment delays. One of the inherent challenges in hospital care is that there is always a certain amount of discontinuity. No provider can stay in the hospital around the clock so patients are inevitably cared for by many different providers during a hospitalization. An Agency for Health Care Research and Quality report likens the issue to the children’s game of “telephone” – when a message is relayed again and again and again, across multiple individuals, errors can occur.
Hospitals can address some of the safety issues created by delays in treatment caused by communication issues among multiple providers by instituting policies that address timelines for care delivery as well as staff communication. Specific policies should include:
- Hand-off communication
- Unacceptable Abbreviation and Symbol List
- Patient status reporting to physician
Patient Safety Awareness Week is an excellent time to review these important policies. Consider actually “walking through” the policy on the unit and comparing what the policy says is supposed to happen with what staff is actually doing. Does the policy reflect the real process? If not, then it is time to update the policy. Included with today’s notice are several example policies that relate to potential delays in treatment.
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