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Information Exchange In Geriatric Hospitals

Information exchange is vital in medicine; physicians and nurses must be aware of patients’ conditions, allergies, and current medications to avoid potentially fatal medical errors (e.g. drug interactions, allergic reactions, and side effects), which have been estimated to kill between 150,000 to 250,000 people annually in the U.S. alone. Identifying powerful/influential links is crucial to identify targets for interventions.


Chan et al. identified and analyzed networks in four urban geriatric hospitals in Australia—mainly focusing on these institutions due to the rapid growth of the geriatric population, as well as its vulnerability to medical errors (geriatric patients usually present with a variety of illnesses, which are subsequently treated with several medications).  All four hospitals were found to have between 41-50 nodes, and an average path length between 1.99 and 2.91. However, these values were not correlated to the number of medical errors, which would be an interesting topic for future study. The most important nodes were identified through a “multiple indicator analysis,” which took into account several factors, including the number of connections to other nodes. These nodes were almost the same throughout the four hospitals, and included doctors (particularly doctors in training), senior nurses, and pharmacists. However, given a small sample size of n=4 hospitals as well as a lack of statistical analysis, future studies should be conducted.


Given that “junior” physicians appeared to be the “key recipients” of medical information exchange, the results of this study suggest that interventions should be targeted at doctors in training and nurses, and that efforts should be made to facilitate better communication with other senior physicians and other healthcare professionals.



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October 2018