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Dr. Tom Lloyd LLM, MB ChB, MD, MRCS, MFFLM

Saegis Safety Institute

In an increasingly complex clinical environment, effective physician communication with patients, colleagues, and teams is essential. Miscommunication or misunderstanding can compromise patient safety, increase practice risk, and erode the reputation of a hospital or clinic. “Although technical skills can cause medical-legal issues, studies show that communication breakdowns within the health care team or between doctor and patient are significant risk factors leading to medical errors,” says Dr. Tom Lloyd, Director of the Saegis Safety Institute, which is based in Ottawa, ON.

Fortunately, physician and team communication can be improved through education and practical training and by applying specific, easily-learned techniques. Saegis, a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), is helping physicians and health care professionals in team-based settings do just that by providing a range of educational and professional development programs aimed at improving communication, advancing patient safety, and reducing practice risk.

Education allows physicians and health care professionals to improve the quality of their interactions, provide safer health care to their patients, and reduce their medical-legal risk.

Tom Lloyd, Director of the Saegis Safety Institute

Programs to enhance communication skills and organizational culture

Through its Organizational Improvement Series, Saegis offers three key programs. The Just Culture certification course, offered in partnership with US-based Outcome Engenuity, features an innovative assessment tool designed to help organizations achieve both justice and accountability in a consistent manner. The course’s framework places less focus on events, errors, and outcomes, and more on system design and the management of behavioural choices through a system of shared accountability between employees and leaders. “Just Culture is quite unique in that it takes into account the interplay between behavioural choice and system design,” says Dr. Lloyd.

To help health care leaders and HR professionals in health care institutions recognize and address unprofessional behaviour, Saegis offers a comprehensive program called Strategies for Managing Unprofessional Behaviour. “It equips participants with the strategies, knowledge, and skills to manage behavioural challenges within their health care teams and establish an effective institutional culture to underpin this knowledge,” he says.

Communicating Unexpected Outcomes is a half-day, on-site workshop for physicians, nurses, residents, and other health care professionals and is designed to improve transparency with patients and families after unexpected clinical outcomes, including medical errors. “This program stresses the importance of empathetic communication, individual, team, and organizational accountability, and patient-centred disclosure,” says Dr. Lloyd.

Saegis also provides several programs regarding other aspects of communication. The Successful Patient Interactions workshop, for example, focuses on key communication issues facing Canadian physicians and health care professionals, while the Effective Team Interactions program helps health care professionals improve interactions with colleagues. This program covers the concept of psychological safety and allowing team members to express their concerns. Finally, the Clinical Communication Program (CCP) is their most in-depth program, designed to dramatically enhance doctor-patient communication, improve performance, and reduce the risk of litigation or complaint. “It creates significant behavioural and attitudinal change to improve safety and renew enjoyment in the practice of medicine,” says Dr. Lloyd.

Saegis programs increasing patient safety overall

Improving the communications abilities of health care professionals is key to a well-functioning health care system. By providing in-depth, evidence-based programs and services for physicians, health care teams, hospitals, and clinics that focus on communication, Saegis is filling a critical professional development gap and helping to make the health care system safer and more sustainable overall. “Education allows physicians and health care professionals to improve the quality of their interactions, provide safer health care to their patients, and reduce their medical-legal risk,” says Dr. Lloyd.

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