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  • Writer's pictureStephen Harden

Team Training Reduces Errors by 19%

A new study reveals that team training in healthcare can reduce medical errors by 19 percent. Team training can also reduce patient mortality by 15 percent.

On of the authors of the study, Eduardo Salas of Rice University says, “Estimates indicate that preventable medical errors occur in one out of every three hospital admissions. The evidence is clear: Medical error causes patient harm, and much of this error is preventable. Team training is one possible way to prevent such errors from ever happening.”

I totally agree with Eduardo (with whom I worked many years ago doing team training for Navy flight squadrons.) Our experience at LifeWings has shown even greater error reduction than the 19% in his study. It is not uncommon for our LeanSTEPPS patient safety program to totally eliminate serious safety events and other kinds of patient harm.

I think we see much greater error improvement in our LeanSTEPPS program because we not only provide team training though TeamSTEPPS and/or CRM, we also use Lean tools to implement habit-forming standard safety tools such as checklists, and communication protocols. In addition, LeanSTEPPS provides leadership training in culture change.

But even if you didn't have the resources to implement a comprehensive patient safety program like LeanSTEPPS, if you just conducted team training, you'd improve your organization. For example, the researchers reported that team training was associated with a:

  • 15 percent improvement in the financial outcomes of health care organizations

  • 34 percent improvement in clinical performance

  • 15 percent increase in patient satisfaction

Salas says, “Ultimately, we found that team training is effective and useful in this field and can save money and, more importantly, lives.”

The study examines the impact of training in team settings among 23,018 participants in 129 prior studies. The previous research examined how team training impacted quality of care, customer service, patient satisfaction, and other variables. Participants included health care providers (physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, etc.), allied health care personnel (nurses and therapists), health care staff (unit clerks), and health care students (medical students, nursing students, etc.) and came from facilities ranging from small clinics to large hospitals, both in the US and abroad.

The study will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Applied Psychology. Coauthors are from the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston; the University of Central Florida; Rice University; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and the US Department of Defense. NASA funded the research.

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